Jeffrey LewisTranscendental Meditation & the NPT

Lost amidst President Obama’s announcement that the US would support permanent membership on the UN Security Council for India, was this little nugget in the India-US Joint Statement calling for a nuclear dialogue among nuclear weapons states:

They affirmed the need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.

Now I am all for such a dialogue, but it caused a flurry in the Indian press, including an article by our friend Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu, that seemed to suggest the Indian side interpreted this as a move to create “a framework which has the potential to transcend the NPT, while remaining faithful to the twin goals of non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons.”  Or, as an Indian official told Siddarth “We are constructing a paradigm beyond the NPT.”

Transcend the NPT?

Obviously, this caused no little consternation among others — like those non-nuclear weapons states that signed the NPT.  To understand the problem with this approach, imagine how you would react to Iran explaining its desire, too, in transcending the conceptual limits of the NPT framework.

So, our fearless leader, Bill Potter actually asked Gary Samore what exactly the US intended to convey with that sentence.  (Samore, the arms control and nonproliferation coordinator at the National Security Council was appearing at the POSSE meeting last week organized by the Monterey Institute and Georgia Tech.)

Samore told Bill that that the U.S. did not intend to convey the impression that it had adopted a new policy encouraging nuclear discussions between the NPT-recognized P-5 and the other nuclear weapons possessors, despite the interpretation the Indian media has seized upon.

Indeed, it appears from the Indian reporting that this is a long-standing bit of Indian boilerplate that the Administration acceded to.

Of course, with US support for India’s membership in the NSG and no pressure on India to sign the CTBT or support an FMCT, you can hardly fault the Indians for assuming that whatever Manmohan wants, Manmohan gets.  If Manmohan Singh asked the President to use DARHT, it isn’t clear to me the President could resist.


Since this is a music-themed post, I figured I would just end with a little John Lennon — that great rival of Brian Wilson who left his experience with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with a bitterness I find more apt for the situation at hand:


  1. NoNukeDuke (History)

    Wow you are a creative writer; Nukes, transcendental meditation and the Beatles all in one article! I’m all for anti-proliferation efforts and speaking of proliferation there seems to be no shortage of stories about the Maharishi and the Beatles. It seems that most of the Beatles say they regret the incident, saying in retrospect they made a mistake, all those years ago.

  2. V. Siddhartha (History)

    India has for long suffered the drone of the Non-Proliferation Ayatholas in one ear, and the loud hyena-esque chuckle of the Maharishi of the Himalayas in the other. Dual Axis Radiographic Hydro would be ideal to eliminate the need to keep hearing that stereo!

  3. Mark Gubrud (History)

    Transcending the NPT may be a bit premature (and unwise), but surely we recognize that the program of “reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines,” and moving concretely toward nuclear abolition, eventually requires negotiations including all the de facto nuclear states — and by eventually, I mean sooner than later.

    It is debatable whether a further round of US-Russia cuts beyond New Start is possible without the beginnings of this. There needs to be a credible vision, and if not a detailed roadmap, at least one that does not run into impassable obstacles.

    Certainly I wouldn’t expect the US and Russia to go down to the 300 range (the tier occupied by Britain, France, China, and possibly Israel) if further progress were going to be blocked by scruples about not recognizing NPT rogues.

    And obviously, going to the 100 range would require the involvement of all current defactos minus North Korea. At that level, the process should become a global convention, but it is unlikely that states which actually do possess nukes can be left out of negotiations about documentation and verified dismantlement, or not given more attention than non-possessing states — while of course, everyone will have something to say about the terms for verifying compliance with global zero.

  4. ataune (History)

    If true, this fit singularly well into the agenda and the policies pursued by different US administrations. This policy boils down to the following: Since we can’t entirely eliminate nuclear weapons as we promised in the NPT and since, meanwhile, some friends and foes have acquired the bomb or the capabilities to make it, let’s have a policy of taking this out from the hand of the “non-responsible” international actors and not let this spread more than it has right now.

    This policy is obviousely different from the letter and spirit of the NPT (one of the pillars of the world order established by the victors of WWII), hence the sharp resistance it encounter, with not a so positive outlook for its success.

  5. Magoo (History)

    The very concept of the NPT was violated at its inception with the bilateral arrangement between the then Soviet Union and the US to allow deployment of nuclear weapons in the territories of their non nuclear weapon state allies. This aberration continues today by licensing NATO as a nuclear weapon state wherein they host tactical nuclear weapons and have fully trained and equipped forces to employ these weapons.
    Secondly, there are three states, Israel, India and Pakistan that have proven nuclear weapon arsenals – a reality that cannot be wished away and, therefore has to be taken into account.
    Thirdly there are indicators that the DPRK has crossed the nuclear threshold and it is alleged that Iran is attempting to do so also.
    Finally, four decades after the birth of the Treaty, the NPT recognized nuclear weapon states continue to affirm that nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of their national security philosophies, in total disregard of Article VI of the Treaty.
    While I agree with Siddharth Vardharajan’s argument, I would go further to state that the NPT was DOA when it supposedly came into force. There is no question of transcending death unless one accepts the philosophy of rebirth. Like it or not the NPT is in the need of being reconceived.