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Was the US-Indian nuclear deal justified? Should it move forward?

Background and context

Indo-U.S. nuclear deal cannot be seen as a stand-alone agreement, but must be seen in the broader international and national political, strategic, economic and ethical context.Contesting the argument of the official supporters of the deal that it breaks India’s nuclear isolation and gives it access to advanced nuclear technology hitherto denied, The official U.S. and Indian perceptions of the deal and what it can do and cannot differ significantly.
While the Indian government and its spokespersons present the agreement as a stand-alone deal limited to cooperation in the arena of civilian nuclear energy, the U.S. has explicitly anchored it within a larger Indo-U.S. strategic partnership. Purkayastha reminds us that the nuclear weapon-states have not fulfilled their part of the demonstrably unequal global nuclear bargain that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) represents, namely moving forward on universal nuclear disarmament or even holding good faith discussions on it. While developing a whole new generation of advanced nuclear weapons and seeking to militarise outer space, the U.S. and its allies refuse to recognise that Iran as a signatory to the NPT is well within its rights to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.The interesting point that despite the West’s preoccupation with non-proliferation instead of universal disarmament, and with ensuring it through the NPT, by the 1990s, “... the nuclear non-proliferation regime itself was unraveling.” India could well have waited for the contradictions of the regime to mature than rush into a deal that officialdom claims will end its “nuclear isolation.” With India’s rising economic clout, market considerations would have forced a dismantling of the sanctions regime imposed on India as a non-NPT state under the NPT. Purkayastha shows that the two concerns raised by the political left against the nuclear deal are valid. One was that the deal seeks to bind India to U.S. on foreign policy issues, and the second that the U.S. would constantly shift goal posts in the process of translating the agreement into laws. The Hyde Act clearly demonstrates the validity of both these concerns. The deal is far from being a solution to India’s energy problem, in view of cost considerations.The theme of the implications of the deal for India’s interests in the crucial geopolitics of Central Asia, as well as our relations with China and Russia, is dealt with brilliantly by Bhadrakumar. In a comprehensive essay, he argues that the U.S. influence in Asia is diminishing and that it seeks “… to divide Asia and thereby to “contain” China’s expanding influence and Russia’s resurgence.” Noting that the stability and security of Central Asia is in India’s interest, he argues that India should cooperate with Russia and China through participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Unfortunately, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and the larger Indo-U.S. strategic partnership, initiated by the NDA regime and carried forward by the UPA in violation of its National Common Minimum Programme, is seriously compromising India’s autonomy to pursue a Central Asian policy in tune with our national interests. Bhadrakumar argues that Asian unity must be an axiom of India’s policies and that we must not partner and assist the U.S. in its strategy of dividing Asia into rival blocs in a replay of the old cold war politics.


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US-Indian relations: Will a deal improve strategic relations between the countries?

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Yes

  • Nuclear deal is justified by India and USA being largest democracies. The United States and India hold a unique bond in the simple fact that they are the world's two largest democracies. This warrants a special relationship in trading nuclear fuels as well as technology for nuclear energy.
  • The US and India have a history of peaceful nuclear relations. In the 1950s, the United States helped India develop nuclear energy under the Atoms for Peace program. The United States built a nuclear reactor for India, provided nuclear fuel for a time, and allowed Indian scientists study at U.S. nuclear laboratories.[1] This long history was interrupted when India tested its first bomb in 1973. While this broke relations with the US, India made it clear that it was, nevertheless, a responsible power.


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No

  • US-India nuclear deal was rushed and imposed top-down. Jayshree Bajoria. "The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal". Council on Foreign Relations. July 21, 2008 - The agreement was rushed and takes unnecessary risks without adequate preparation or expert review. The agreement "appears to have been formulated without a comprehensive high-level review of its potential impact on nonproliferation, the significant engagement of many of the government's most senior nonproliferation experts, or a clear plan for achieving its implementation," writes William C. Potter, director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, in Nonproliferation Review. "Indeed, it bears all the signs of a top-down administrative directive specifically designed to circumvent the interagency review process and to minimize input from any remnants of the traditional 'nonproliferation lobby.'"
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Nuclear energy: Is there a strong nuclear energy purpose to the agreement?

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Yes

  • Nuclear deal helps India meet rapidly growing energy demand B.S. Prakash, India's Consul General in San Francisco, said in March of 2006, "The crux of the nuclear deal, really, is that an India which is growing by 8 percent has huge energy needs, and we have very, very limited options. The key to understanding this issue is to really look at India's energy needs and not so much on India's weapons program, on which there has been an excessive focus."[2]
  • Nuclear energy will cleanly meet India's growing energy demands Condoleezza Rice - "India is a country that has tremendously growing demand for energy. It is a country that, if it tries to meet that demand through carbon-based sources for energy, is going to contribute dramatically to the continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions."[3]


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No

  • Nuclear power would provide India with relatively little energy Suvrat Raju. "The Nuclear Deal And Democracy". CounterCurrents.org. 10 July, 2008 - "While much has been written about the Indo-US nuclear deal, a central question remains unasked: "Why is the deal important enough to precipitate a crisis in the government?". The answer that the proponents of the deal provide –- that the deal is essential for energy security –- is, evidently, simple minded. According to figures provided by Anil Kakodkar –- the chairperson of the Department of Atomic Energy –- the deal will increase India's installed energy capacity by 2.5% by 2020 (1). While the Prime Minister may be perspicacious, this stretches the bounds of sagacity; simply put, governments do not risk self sacrifice for small gains in energy production, 12 years in the future. When one compounds this insignificant gain with the considerable uncertainty that the deal will actually clear the American congress before September, the energy security argument becomes completely untenable."
  • There are more cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power for India. Jayshree Bajoria. "The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal". Council on Foreign Relations. July 21, 2008 - "There are far more cost-efficient ways to improve India's energy and technology sectors. These could include making India's existing electricity grid more efficient, restructuring the country's coal industry, and expanding the use of renewable energy sources, Sokolski said in congressional testimony. All these steps would involve much less dangerous transfers of technology that would not be dual-use, and therefore not convertible to nuclear weapons production."


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Safeguards: Does the deal provide sufficient nuclear weapons safeguards?

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Yes

  • Nuclear deal places safeguards on India's existing plants Jayshree Bajoria. "The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal". Council on Foreign Relations. July 21, 2008 - "Would encourage India to accept international safeguards on facilities it has not allowed to be inspected before. This is a major step, experts say, because the existing nonproliferation regime has failed either to force India to give up its nuclear weapons or make it accept international inspections and restrictions on its nuclear facilities. "President Bush's bilateral deal correctly recognizes that it is far better for the nonproliferation community if India works with it rather than against it," writes Seema Gahlaut of the University of Georgia's Center for International Trade and Security in a CSIS policy brief. IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei has strongly endorsed the deal, calling it a pragmatic way to bring India into the nonproliferation community."
  • US-India nuclear deal shows India is a responsible nuclear power Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace—currently serving as an adviser to the State Department on Indian affairs—says in congressional testimony that the deal recognizes this growing relationship by engaging India, which has proven it is not a nuclear proliferation risk. Other experts say the deal lays out the requirements for India to be recognized as a responsible steward of nuclear power. "This is part of a process of making India a more durable and reliable nuclear partner," Schaffer says.
  • US-India nuclear deal rewards India's past safeguards, encourages future ones. "Rewards India's decision to adopt similar nuclear export standards as those imposed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India has thus far chosen to abide by the strict export controls on nuclear technology set by the NSG, a group of forty-five nuclear-supplier states that voluntarily coordinates controls of nuclear exports to non-nuclear-weapon states. Experts say if India chose to lift these voluntary restrictions, it could easily sell its technology to far less trustworthy countries around the world. The U.S. deal would reward the Indian government for its voluntary controls and give New Delhi incentive to continue them, against the demands of Indian hardliners who question what India gets out of placing such limits on itself."


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No

  • Safeguards apply only to fissile materials produced after the agreement. Jayshree Bajoria. "The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal". Council on Foreign Relations. July 21, 2008 - "The safeguards apply only to facilities and material manufactured by India beginning when the agreement was reached. It doesn't cover the fissile material produced by India over the last several decades of nuclear activity. The CRS report says, "A significant question is how India, in the absence of full-scope safeguards, can provide adequate confidence that U.S. peaceful nuclear technology will not be diverted to nuclear weapons purposes."
  • US-India deal does not create safeguards in perpetuity.
  • Sending nuclear fuel to India frees its own uranium for more bombs. Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center - "We are going to be sending, or allowing others to send, fresh fuel to India—including yellowcake and lightly enriched uraniumt—that will free up Indian domestic sources of fuel to be solely dedicated to making many more bombs than they would otherwise have been able to make."[4]


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Proliferation/NPT: Does the US-India nuclear deal undermine non-proliferation?

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Yes

  • The NPT was already doomed; US-India nuclear deal is not responsible for killing it. Experts such as Gahlaut argue that the NPT was already failing in its mission to prevent proliferation. She argues many countries—including North Korea, Libya, Iran, and Iraq—have cheated while being signatories of the NPT.[5]
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No

  • A US-India nuclear deal will gut the NPT. Jayshree Bajoria. "The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal". Council on Foreign Relations. July 21, 2008 - "What effect will the U.S.-India deal have on the NPT? It could gut the agreement, experts say. Article 1 of the treaty says nations that possess nuclear weapons agree not to help states that do not possess weapons to acquire them. Albright says that without additional measures to ensure a real barrier exists between India's military and civilian nuclear programs, the agreement "could pose serious risks to the security of the United States" by potentially allowing Indian companies to proliferate banned nuclear technology around the world. In addition, it could lead other suppliers—including Russia and China—to bend the international rules so they can sell their own nuclear technology to other countries, some of them hostile to the United States."


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China: What role does China play?

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Yes

  • The US-India nuclear deal helps protect both countries from China. Jayshree Bajoria. "The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal". Council on Foreign Relations. July 21, 2008 - What role does China play in the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal? It is a motivating factor in the deal, some experts say. China's rise in the region is prompting the United States to seek a strategic relationship with India. "The United States is trying to cement its relationship with the world's largest democracy in order to counterbalance China," Ferguson says. The Bush administration is "hoping that latching onto India as the rising star of Asia could help them handle China," Sokolski says.


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No

  • India is less interested in deterring China than cooperating with it economically. Robert Blackwill, a former U.S. ambassador to India, said at a Council meeting February 23, "Indians have no interest whatsoever in trying to contain China because they believe this could be a self-fulfilling prophesy, and their whole policy is to seek the best possible relationship with China."[6]
  • India is not interested in being a US-counterweight against China. Michael Krepon. "The US-India Nuclear Deal: Another Wrong Turn in the War on Terror". Stimson. 29 Mar. 2006 - "A third assumption – that India would naturally serve as a counterweight to China – helps explain why the administration has given New Delhi a free pass on nuclear testing, fissile material production, and stockpile growth. This assumption rests on shaky ground. New Delhi is moving steadily to improve ties with Beijing along with Washington. India has not emerged from the shackles of colonial rule or the shadows of the Cold War to do Washington’s bidding against China. If this is the Bush administration’s game, it has misestimated its new strategic partner and chosen the wrong centerpiece for the partnership."
  • Giving India nuclear aid could spark a harmful rivalry with China. U.S. nuclear aid to India could foster a dangerous nuclear rivalry between India and China. This is not in the world's interests.
  • India want to cooperate with China and deter it with nuclear weapons.
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Pakistan: How does the deal relate to Pakistan?

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Yes

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No

  • US-India nuclear deal alienates Pakistan (does not have a deal). Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, who has suffered fierce criticism at home—and survived two assassination attempts—or his strong alliance with the United States since 9/11, has not received a similar deal on nuclear energy from Washington. Some experts say this apparent U.S. favoritism toward India could increase the nuclear rivalry between the intensely competitive nations, and potentially raise tensions in the already dangerous region.
  • US-India nuclear deal heightens India-Pakistan nuclear tensions. Blackwill said, "Some experts say this apparent U.S. favoritism toward India could increase the nuclear rivalry between the intensely competitive nations, and potentially raise tensions in the already dangerous region. 'My impression is that [the Pakistanis] are worried this will feed the Indian nuclear weapons program and therefore weaken deterrence.' Other experts say the two countries, both admittedly now nuclear, could be forced to deal more cautiously with each other."
  • US-India nuclear deal could break Pakistan-US relations.
  • US-India nuclear deal could cause Pakistan to seek similar deal elsewhere. Some experts worry the U.S.-India deal could prompt Pakistan to go elsewhere for similar terms.[7]


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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No


See also

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