Peace Action West has been working against the proposed civilian nuclear deal with India since 2006. While the deal does not allow trade in weapons technology, it undermines the nuclear nonproliferation regime by breaking global rules that only allow such trade with countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. While we certainly support strong relations with India, there are plenty of more effective ways to do that that do not increase the risk of nuclear proliferation.
The deal has been stalled due to concerns during the many stages the deal needs to go through. The next major step is for the 45 nations in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to meet September 4-5 and determine whether to make an exception to the rules for India.
Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) had a great OpEd in the New York Times about the deal. While we ultimately feel India should sign the NPT to be granted this kind of arrangement, Tauscher and Markey offer important improvements to the deal:
India’s nuclear history is checkered at best, and New Delhi has been denied access to the international nuclear market for three decades. The reasons are well known: the country has never signed the nonproliferation treaty or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, it misused civilian nuclear technology to produce its first nuclear weapon in 1974, and it continues to manufacture nuclear weapons to this day.
Paradoxically, the Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed in direct response to India’s illegal 1974 nuclear test. Its central purpose is to ensure that no other country exploits foreign nuclear energy assistance to make a bomb, as India did. If the group accedes to President Bush’s dangerous request, countries such as Iran and North Korea would certainly use the precedent to their advantage…
… Thankfully, there is an easy solution. The group can say yes to nuclear trade with India if two simple conditions are met. First, India must sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a step already taken by 178 other countries and every member state of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. After all, why should the group’s members grant India a huge exemption from the rules that they themselves are supposed to follow?
Second, India must agree to halt production of nuclear material for weapons. That doesn’t mean that India has to give up the weapons it has, or even that it cannot make more weapons with the nuclear material it has already produced. But by closing down its manufacturing of new plutonium and highly enriched uranium, India would prove to the international community that opening up nuclear commerce would not assist, either directly or indirectly, its nuclear weapons program.
This deal was foolish when Pakistan was relatively stable; with Mr. Musharraf gone, an arms race on the subcontinent would likely be more difficult to control. But even if the president continues to insist on the deal, he can’t do it alone. He needs the 44 other countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to acquiesce. And the group, created to prevent the further spread of the atom, would vote itself out of existence if it allowed India to have nuclear technology with no strings attached.