Jeffrey LewisState Department Answers on India

Howard Berman has released the long-awaited State Department responses to more than 40 questions the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked about the US-India Nuclear Debacle in October 2007. You can find them on the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center website.

Glenn Kessler explains that the questions were kept secret to protect the Indian government:

The correspondence concerned 45 highly technical questions that members of Congress posed about the deal. In 2006, Congress passed a law, known as the Hyde Act, to provisionally accept the agreement. But some lawmakers raised concerns about whether a separate implementing agreement negotiated by the administration papered over critical details to assuage Indian concerns. The questions were addressed in a 26-page letter sent to Berman’s predecessor, the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), on Jan. 16.

The answers were considered so sensitive, particularly because debate over the agreement in India could have toppled the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that the State Department requested they remain secret even though they were not classified.

Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for Berman, said he made the answers public yesterday because, if NSG approval is granted, the U.S-India deal soon would be submitted to Congress for final approval and “he wants to assure that Congress has the relevant information.”


  1. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Let’s suppose that everything went without a hitch at the August NSG meeting for the US-India deal from India’s point of view.

    A “clean and unconditional” NSG waiver would have been done —- rammed through by the US in the final days of the Bush Administration.

    As their reward, officials from the Bush Administration then can expect cushy jobs as lobbyists for the Government of India as soon as they leave their jobs in January.

    The deal then goes to Congress, where it is inevitable that the State Department Document would be made public, thus, stymieing the deal in the US.

    Congress would then be left with the option of either amending / overriding the Hyde Act to give India what they got – courtesy of the Bush administration – at the NSG, or in the alternative, see the American Nuclear Industry cut out of the Indian market.

    While this probably could not be done in 30 sitting days, there is no question that immense pressure can be brought to Congress by lobbyists working for the Government of India over the next year. Rather than to expend capital lobbying Washington again, the GOI of India double cross the United States using the NSG waiver.

    India goes off and concludes bilateral deals with Russia, France, Australia, etc. that secure their supply of uranium and also acquire as much technology and equipment under the NSG waiver. Delivery of these items happens over the next 2 or 3 years or as quickly as possible.

    At that point India comes back to the US and basically bargains for what few pieces they have not been able to acquire except from the US from a position of strength.

    If the US declines and Congress cannot be persuaded even by high priced lobbyists, India walks away.

    Shortly thereafter (within 5 years of today), India resumes testing but with a much stronger hand including a stockpile of uranium and all the non-US nuclear technology they bought.

    From this angle, going for a “clean and unconditional” NSG waiver even when the Government of India knew the US hands are tied by the Hyde Act and the bilateral US-India deal will probably die in Congress makes perfect sense.

    Divide the NSG members, and conquer them individually was the Indian game plan all along. Then get as much as India can without the US, and resume nuclear testing.

    I think it is called double crossing the US. And double crossing the NSG members.

    So…. back to wonky issues:

    Can someone on this blog provide us with a good faith estimate of how much it would cost for any country to:

    A) Build an enhanced nuclear deterrent with extensive penetration aids and other features to get through India’s ABM system so as to maintain the credibility of a nuclear deterrent against India?

    This would probably, of necessity, require increasing the number of warheads targeted at India and also the number of launch platforms.

    B) Create and deploy an anti-Ballistic Missile system to deal with the threat of Indian nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles?

    India has under development ICBMs with ranges up to 20,000km, putting virtually every country in the world “in range”. That includes Washington and New York.

    C) How do the cost of (A) and (B) compare with the “benefits” and profits earned from selling India nuclear materials and technology?

    Had India got their way, the Australians would be thinking very hard about getting a contingency plan to walk away from the NPT and field a nuclear deterrent 10 years down the road once India resumed testing and started fielding nuclear tipped missiles (perhaps on an SSBN or SSN) that can reach Australia.

    Just imagine hitting Australian taxpayers with the bill for a fleet of 6 or more SSNs needed to keep track of the Indian SSBNs.

    Australia is going to need every penny they make from selling India uranium to fund this!

  2. Magoo Nair (History)

    The US State Department deceit knows no bounds. Senior officials such as Burns were tasked by President Bush to get India on board a strategic alliance that would facilitate a strategic Bloc in Asia to support American strategic policies. However, I had already analysed (see AGNI September – December 2005 Issue what Washington’s strategy would entail. Bob Joseph’s testimony to Congress vis-à-vis his interaction with the NSG members was extremely illuminating – as was Condi Rice’s testimony before Congress a few months ago. The disclosure of these 45 questions and answers came as no surprise to the Indians (other than the PMO) and, therefore the tremendous political opposition to the Indo-US ‘Nuclear Deal’. Unfortunately the Indian Government was gullible and queered our pitch with Iran – thank goodness not irreparably. While scams of all kinds prevail in India, these shenanigans by the State Department are the Grand Daddy of All Scams. Fortunately all has been exposed before the second meeting of the NSG. India’s indigenous potential is slow but good enough for it to continue its national civil and military nuclear policies without getting involved in disingenuous geopolitical shenanigans. We can now walk away from the deal honourably and continue with the premier national policy – SELF RELIANCE without compromising our sovereign autonomy.

  3. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    “The one major benefit of nuclear proliferation conceivably would be to create deterrence relationships that lower or eliminate the risk of war between a certain set of adversaries.

    Kenneth Waltz has been the most illustrious proponent of this view. Indian and Pakistani champions of nuclear weapons celebrated the tests of 1998 by proclaiming that deterrence and to experience a war in 1999 and a major crisis in 2001-02 to get there.

    The major problem is that deterrence works best (and perhaps only) if the antagonists accept the territorial status quo among them. If one or more nuclear-armed adversaries does not accept the status quo and instead still harbors ambitions to act physically within the territory held by the adversary, nuclear weapons can embolden the unsatisfied actor to undertake provocations of an intensity low enough that the provocateur calculates the victim will be unlikely to respond massively, for fear of escalating to the possible use of nuclear weapons.

    This famous stability-instability paradox has operated in Indo-Pak relations since Pakistan first acquired basic nuclear weapons capability in 1987. As long as Pakistan does not accept the territorial status quo in Kashmir, the risk remains.”

    – George Perkovich

    Acceptance of their territorial status quo should be a necessary and not sufficient condition for the legitimation of any NNWS’s status as a nuclear weapons state.

    “The director of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, General Kidwai, has listed four situations in which Pakistan would use nuclear weapons against
    India.1 These are:

    1. India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory.

    2. India destroys a large part of either Pakistan’s land or air forces.

    3. India proceeds to the economic strangling of Pakistan.

    4. India pushes Pakistan into political destabilization or creates a large-scale internal subversion in Pakistan.

    Pakistan may respond to any of these situations by using nuclear weapons, and it is well known that Pakistan does not subscribe to a “No First Use Policy.” Note that the first two of these situations would arise due to large-scale conventional warfare. The third condition could arise due to a naval blockade of Pakistan’s two main ports. Given the superiority of India’s navy, this is a real threat. The last situation is more ambiguous since India might not have to undertake overt action to bring the destabilization about. Indeed, such destabilization could occur without any Indian involvement whatsoever.”

    – Gregory S. Jones

    Do the NSG members really want to test these theories out using India and Pakistan lives for the sake of earning a few hundred billion dollars in nuclear trade?

  4. Manne (History)


    Your concerns about India’s hypothetical actions and intentions are highly interesting given you are not applying the same yardstick to the biggest real-world proliferators in the neighbourhood – China and Pakistan.

    Kind regards,

  5. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    The real meaning of the State Department answers was given away by how hard Bush Administration appointees pushed for the NSG exemption at the September meeting.

    Whereas there was doubt before whether it is geopolitics vs. commercial interests, with Indians publically telling the US that they intend to not buy American technology that will be sold under Hyde Act terms, then the only thing left on the table are buys of American military hardware.

    If India gets its clean exemption at the NSG, they will use it to secure stockpiles of nuclear fuel and technologies, and then resume testing.

    Pakistan may do them the favor of being the first to test, thus providing them some cover.

    Testing, plus the new uranium stockpiles will mean that India will eventually end up with upwards of hundreds to a thousand warheads including weaponized hydrogen bombs. Expect Pakistan to follow suit on hydrogen bomb development.

  6. AJ (History)

    “Expect Pakistan to follow suit on hydrogen bomb development.”

    Do you have information on China’s plans in this regard?

  7. kme

    Lao Tao Ren: It is the unequivocal and long-standing position of the party forming the current Australian Government that Uranium sales are only made to countries that are signatories to the NPT.

    Considering that Australia is making boatloads of cash selling iron ore and LNG to China (with a dollar value far higher than Uranium sales represent) I can’t see too much pressure to change that.

    Additionally, to your comment about an Australian deterrent, the major consideration in Australia’s strategic calculus remains Indonesia.

  8. Magoo Nair (History)

    I find Lao Tao Ren’s comments interesting. Yes everyone is double crossing everyone including members of the NSG. Culpability is quite universal.

    His comment on the director of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, General Kidwai, are true but the General seems to forget that the true nature of his country’s nuclear weapons capabilities are not quite in keeping with the inflated assessments being lavished on Pakistan by the West. Its easy to list out conditions under which Pakistan’s nukes would be triggered, while its a totally different matter to “arrive at a decision to initiate a strike knowing fully well that the India’s nuclear response would be of a disproportionate nature”, which would put paid to the future existence of Pakistan as a socio-economic entity. Possible Decision making potential is what drives deterrence theories. Its not all that simple to lay out neat lists to cope with a phenomenon that is based on psychological calculations. We – including my self – tend to over simplify the intricacies of managing this phenomenon. The only answer is total global disarmament of all weapon systems that could inflict mass destruction, including those based on the electromagnetic spectrum and fuel cushion explosives.

  9. Free Tibet (History)

    I wonder why Mr. Ren is so adamant on assigning hypothetical intentions to the Indian as well as the US diplomacy?

    Given the fact that it’s been the Chinese who have flouted NPT and other proliferation initiatives, one would reasonably think Mr. Ren would be more concerned about overt actions of the Chinese than the supposed covert intentions of the Indians.