(Published at: Daily News and Analysis, October 17, 2013) | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

by Praful Bidwai

Three recent developments highlight the issue of weapons of mass destruction and India’s policy towards them. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has gone to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), dealing with armaments that figure prominently in the Syrian crisis.

Second, the United Nations General Assembly just held a “high-level meeting” on nuclear disarmament. Although this only produced inane statements, including one by India, it underscored imperative steps towards that goal, including giving effect to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and capping and eventually eliminating fissile material stockpiles.

Third, China is reported to be negotiating the construction of two 1,100 MW nuclear power reactors in Pakistan. India has registered protests against this both with Beijing and the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), a private club that sets the rules of global nuclear commerce without UN authorisation.

All three developments show double standards at work. India is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which mandates the destruction of such armaments under OPCW’s supervision. Although India signed the CWC after strenuously (and hypocritically) denying it has chemical weapons, it, nevertheless, later supported OPCW as a worthy organisation shaped ably by its first chief José Maurício Bustani, a Brazilian, whom India considered a friend.

Yet, in 2002, when Bustani was booted out at a special OPCW conference, India brazenly voted against him with the United States. The US wanted him out because he had proposed an excellent plan to inspect suspect chemical weapons activities in Iraq. But the US was hell-bent on attacking Iraq, for political reasons. As Bustani now says: his proposal “would neutralise” the Americans’ invasion plan “as there were no chemicals weapons there. By December 2001, I knew that the Americans were serious about getting rid of me. I fought hard till the end. But the Western countries all came together and the developing nations failed to back me… Even India voted against me. That was quite shocking.”

If such hypocrisy is revolting, no less so is India’s opposition to Chinese nuclear reactors for Pakistan. India is furiously trying to import reactors from the US, France and Russia — even at the cost of mocking Parliament by rewriting the nuclear liability law, while also encouraging carelessness in an unforgiving yet disaster-prone technology.

India’s opposition to the China-Pakistan deal is based on a legal technicality. The NSG bans nuclear commerce with countries that haven’t subjected their nuclear facilities to international inspections, the only exceptions being the five recognised nuclear weapons-states, and India, which received a special exemption under the odious India-US nuclear deal.

To justify the Pakistan reactors, China invokes a “grandfather” clause — namely, it had agreed to build reactors in Pakistan before joining the NSG. India opposes this interpretation, but advances that very interpretation in justifying the import of four Koodankulam reactors from Russia!

Incidentally, it’s no small irony that the NSG was created after India’s 1974 explosion precisely to prevent such further breakouts. India, for decades, condemned the NSG as an unjust, arbitrary “technology-denial” cartel working against countries like itself. Yet, shamefully, it is straining at the leash to join that very “cartel”.

This is of a piece with India’s high-pitched attack against the Non-Proliferation Treaty as viciously discriminatory and sanctifying “atomic apartheid”. The attack’s motive was crudely simple: India wanted nuclear weapons despite its calls for their abolition. The hypocrisy is particularly condemnable because it’s driven by a search not for security, but for (false) prestige.

The author is a writer, columnist, and professor at the Council for Social Development, Delhi