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Mass-destruction weapons: Hypocrisy isn't policy

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.

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The “123” nuclear deal saga: What has India gained, and what has it lost?

Ever since the United States offered India the nuclear cooperation deal in July 2005, and India lapped it up, it has been clear that Washington would have to resort to subterfuge, stealth and arm-twisting in pushing through this unique arrangement for India within the global nuclear order. This order prohibits civilian nuclear commerce with a country which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but has exploded atomic bombs.

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H-bomb or a fizzle?

The claim that the May 1998 thermonuclear test failed should not be used to demand further testing. India does not need hydrogen bombs for security

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Body blow to nuclear disarmament, September 12, 2008

by Praful Bidwai

In contrast to the euphoric headlines in the Indian media proclaiming a 'nuclear dawn; and the 'remaking' of the world to suit Nuclear India's ambitions, the internal reception to the completion of the heated debate in the Nuclear Suppliers' Group in Vienna was sullen and frosty. When the decision, incontestably a major decision, to grant India a waiver from the NSG's tough trading rules was announced on September 6, there was no applause whatever.

A European diplomat at the gathering told Reuters: 'For the first time in my experience of international diplomatic negotiations, a consensus decision was followed by complete silence in the room. No clapping, nothing…' This showed the extent to which many of the NSG's 45 member-states 'felt pressured' by the United States's furious lobbying for the waiver, which bludgeoned them into submission. Very few NSG members were fully satisfied with the waiver, and many entered caveats through their 'national statements'. Said a dismayed diplomat: "NPT RIP (rest in peace)!"

Announcing the death of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty may be a trifle premature, but there's simply no doubt that the waiver has shaken the global nuclear order and blown a gaping hole through the nuclear export control system. For the first time, the world's major powers have agreed to resume nuclear trade with a country that possesses nuclear weapons, but has neither signed the NPT nor acceded to any other agreement on nuclear restraint or disarmament, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

This confronts us all with a choice. We can be short-sighted, narrow and parochial and welcome the waiver as a historic victory signifying India's "arrival" as a Great World Power. Or, we can take a broad-horizon, long-term view and consider the causes and consequences of the waiver not just for India, but the whole world. If India is ever to exercise a major influence on world affairs, its policy-makers and -shapers should surely be concerned with the global consequences of any major event, action or decision, and not just India's self-interest.

Sadly, just the opposite is true. The bulk of the English-language media celebrates the waiver in a gung-ho manner and sees itself as a campaigner/outrider for the US-India nuclear deal from a narrow national-chauvinist perspective. A majority of the deal's opponents too share that same perspective, and regard it as a litmus test of national sovereignty. Both viewpoints vest sovereignty in mass-destruction weapons, not the people.

This column offers a different perspective, based on a commitment to peace, nuclear disarmament, and balance and equity in international relations. Seen from this angle, both the nuclear deal and the waiver are indeed unmitigated disasters for the cause of global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. They will not even enhance India's security, but intensify an arms race in this region, degrading the security of all its states and detracting from their peoples' true priorities. Nor will the deal help India's energy security. Costly and unsafe nuclear power isn't the route to energy security.

First, consider three big claims made about the waiver. It's a victory of "sweet reason", proffered Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee's Images September 5 statement. This generated a "positive momentum" and convinced half the dissenting six states - Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand Images, Norway and Switzerland Images -to radically change their stand. Second, the waiver rights a historic wrong by lifting sanctions and discriminatory technology denial wrongly imposed on India after 1974. And third, it will bring India into the global "non-proliferation mainstream" and promote restraint on India's part.

Mukherjee's was a vague statement saying India opposes nuclear proliferation, doesn't subscribe to an arms race, and will behave "responsibly". This doesn't square up with India's actual record in initiating and sustaining a nuclear arms race in South Asia for three decades. Nor did Mukherjee provide the specific assurance the world sought: a legally binding commitment not to test, or else, nuclear commerce with India would end.

The truth is, the waiver happened not for arms-control reasons, but because of the onslaught of US pressure on the dissenting NSG members The pressure was described as "brutal and unconscionable" by former United Nations undersecretary for disarmament Jayantha Dhanapala. Regrettably, India too practised "with-us-or-against-us" threats to push its case. The US and India both offered economic inducements to supplement strong-arm methods.

Second, it's simply not true that "innocent India" was punished unfairly for conducting the 1974 test with indigenously developed materials and technologies. The critical materials were imported or clandestinely procured. The plutonium for the test came from the CIRUS reactor built with Canadian and US assistance, which was only meant for "peaceful purposes". Hence, the blast was hypocritically called a "peaceful nuclear explosion". But India had cheated the world by diverting civilian material to military use - and become an accomplished proliferator.

Unfortunately, the NSG has made a dangerous double standards-based distinction between "good" and "bad" proliferators and rewarded India because it has become Washington's friend and ally. Tomorrow, another country could exploit the same distinction. This will undermine efforts to contain Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programmes and weaken the global non-proliferation norm.

Third, the waiver won't bring India into the "non-proliferation mainstream" or encourage restraint on its part. In fact, the nuclear deal will allow India to produce more fissile material for bombs. Under the deal, India will separate its military-nuclear facilities from civilian installations and subject some of the latter to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to ensure that no material from them is diverted to military purposes.

However, India will only put 14 of its 22 operating/planned civilian reactors under safeguards. But it can use the remaining eight reactors to produce as much weapons-grade plutonium as it likes. According to a report by independent scientists for the International Panel on Fissile Materials two years ago, these eight reactors alone can yield fuel for as many as 40 Nagasaki-type bombs every year. In addition, India can produce more bomb fuel from dedicated military-nuclear facilities and fast-breeders.

All this makes nonsense of the idea of India's professed "credible minimum deterrent", which is understood as a few dozen weapons. (After all, how many bombs does it take to flatten five Chinese or Pakistani cities? 15, 20, 50?) India already has an estimated 100 to 150 nuclear weapons. Adding to the stockpile can only encourage a vicious nuclear arms race with Pakistan and, more ominously, with China, further destabilising already volatile South Asia.

At any rate, is the waiver "clean and unconditional", as India had insisted it must be? Strictly speaking, no. True, India formally accepted only one of the three conditions proposed by the dissenters through more than 50 amendments in the August 21-22 NSG meeting. This is periodic review of India's compliance with non-proliferation commitments. But the other two conditions - exclusion of enrichment and reprocessing technologies from nuclear trade, and terminating the trade in the event of testing - figure in the "national statements" of interpretation of the waiver by the six "like-minded" countries, and by Japan Images and Germany Images.

So, in practice, nuclear trade with India will be limited. It will most certainly be terminated if India conducts a nuclear explosion, withdraws from IAEA safeguards because of interruptions in fuel supplies, or fails to abide by its other non-proliferation commitments.

Many national statements interpret Mukherjee's speech as a solemn promise not to test, which will automatically terminate cooperation in the event of a test. Although New Delhi Images won't admit it, this isn't quite the unconditional waiver it wanted. But it can live with this.

Both the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party accuse the government of having betrayed the nine commitments regarding the deal made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Parliament, and of having compromised India's "strategic sovereignty". This criticism is off the mark and exaggerates the degree of compromise involved in the waiver. More important, it altogether misses the crucial point concerning the disarmament and peace implications of the deal, in particular, the waiver.

Joining the Nuclear Club, which the Indian elite has long craved to do, won't remotely end global "atomic apartheid". India will merely become another participant in the apartheid ruling regime. India's nuclear weapons will be legitimised. But India will sanctify other countries' nuclear weapons. The last thing India will do on joining the Club is to demand its dissolution or a radical change in its rules! This India will inevitably betray its promise to fight for a nuclear weapons-free world, held out by the United Progressive Alliance .

The UPA seems determined to ram the deal through despite its divisive character and lack of a domestic consensus on it. There's now a good chance that with the Bush administration's hard push, the 123 agreement will clear the US Congress in the current session ending September 26 or in a special lame-duck session.

However, the deal won't win the hearts of the Indian public - and certainly not its votes. The Congress would be ill-advised to make it an election plank.

India's nuclear deal headed for fiasco

Asia Times, August 29, 2008 by Praful Bidwai

NEW DELHI - As the tortuous negotiations for the United States-India nuclear deal enters its final stage, it becomes clear that India seriously underestimated the discomfort and opposition the agreement would arouse in many countries because of the special privileges granted to India, largely on New Delhi's terms.

The emerging situation has thrown Indian policy-makers off-balance. They are now groping for a strategy to deal effectively with dissenters in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) which meets next week in Vienna, Austria.

The NSG, a private arrangement, must grant India a waiver from its tough rules governing nuclear trade before the deal can be completed. The rules prohibit nuclear commerce with countries that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India is a non-signatory.

The NSG is due to discuss a US-drafted waiver motion on September 4-5. It failed at its two-day meeting last week to agree on the proposed exemption. Several member-states raised objections and moved as many as 50 amendments to the text. Since the NSG works by consensus, even one member can hold up a decision.

Many NSG members, led by Austria, New Zealand, Ireland the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, are expected to move amendments to advance the group's fundamental non-proliferation objectives while granting India a waiver.

These amendments seek to impose three conditions on the exemption: periodic review of India's compliance with non-proliferation commitments; explicit exclusion of uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent-fuel technologies from what can be exported to India; and most important, no more nuclear trade with India if this country conducts another nuclear test.

India however insists that the waiver must be "clean and unconditional".

Meanwhile, the US is likely to redraft the motion to meet some of the probable objections and reservations.

However, India and the US have started a new gambit, based on mutual accusation and posturing. Indian officials privately say the US did not pull its weight in lobbying the dissenting states hard enough, or that it "sabotaged" the NSG proceedings by firing from the dissenters' shoulders.

The Americans say that India is being unreasonably inflexible because it does not realize that many NSG members will not go along with the old September 21 draft. There are limits to how much Washington can push them. Something has to give. India says it will reject anything but "cosmetic" changes in the old US draft.

"It's hard to believe that the US would sabotage the deal at this stage, after having initiated the deal and gone out of its way to placate India," says physicist M V Ramana of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in the Environment and Development at Bangalore who is a noted commentator and author on nuclear proliferation issues.

He adds: "In any case, India was involved in negotiating every phrase in the resolutions brought before the IAEA and the NSG. It's futile for India to blame the US. It was at best naive for it to trust Washington to do everything at the NSG."

Unless the NSG's next meeting grants India a waiver, the deal is likely to miss the tight US Congress deadline for its ratification of a bilateral India-US agreement, which is a necessary precondition for the deal to take effect.

The "123 agreement", so called because it concerns Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, 1954, was signed last month to enable nuclear commerce with India.

Congress is scheduled to meet beginning September 8 and adjourn on September 26 before it is re-elected in November.

However, even if the NSG approves a waiver next week, the deal might not make it in time to the US Congress for its ratification.

"It's not going to happen," Congressman Gary Ackerman told The Times of India at Denver, Colorado, where he is attending the Democratic National Convention. "There simply isn't enough time."

According to Ackerman, the duration of the next Congress session falls short of the 30-day resting period the deal must have under current rules. Although it is technically possible to waive the rules, this will mean that Congress agrees to debate the 123 agreement rather than just pass an "up-and-down" or yes or no vote.

And if the agreement is opened up for debate, said Ackerman, "you can bet that there are some lawmakers who want to bring in amendments".

Such amendments are expected to bring the 123 agreement in conformity with a legislation that Congress passed in December 2006, called the Henry J Hyde Act, which imposes numerous conditions upon India, including an end to nuclear cooperation with the US if India conducts a nuclear test.

Uncertainty over the deal's fate has emboldened NSG dissenters to go public. Phil Goff, New Zealand's disarmament and arms control minister, has said in a statement that "many countries spoke in favor of amendments" to the US draft at the last NSG.

Goff said: "A large number of countries, big and small, expressed views similar to New Zealand's that there needed to be compatibility between the US-India agreement and the goals of the NSG ... the discussions last week were robust and constructive."

Goff clarified that "while New Zealand remains a strong advocate of the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and would welcome India's accession to these ... we have not included these in our package of proposals".

India refuses to sign the treaty and will not accept any "prescriptive" advice to do so. While no NSG member expects India to sign the treaties, they want New Delhi to show some willingness to accommodate non-proliferation concerns.

The first signs of discomfort with the deal appeared at the August 1 meeting of the IAEA's board of governors, when many states expressed their reservations about the agency's safeguards (inspections) agreement with India, but finally approved it. The reservations were centered on guarantees of uninterrupted fuel supplies and on India's right to take "corrective measures" in case these are disrupted.

Even so, Austria, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and Norway made it clear in a joint statement that the board's decision only endorses the safeguards agreement, but "in no way prejudges the decision on a possible India-specific exemption in the NSG".

Austria even questioned the description of nuclear energy as an "efficient, clean and sustainable energy source", which lays the preambular basis for the safeguards agreement.

"Although the statement was a clear warning, Indian negotiators ignored it," says a high Indian official familiar with the talks on the deal, who insisted on anonymity. "They thought a combination of US strong-arm pressures and India's new 'with-us-or-against-us' diplomacy would do the trick."

At the NSG meeting last week, opposition to the deal grew. A bloc of six states emerged (comprising Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland) which acted in concert and issued a joint statement. This said their amendments were "based on concepts already enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions, in domestic legislation of NSG member-states, and in bilateral nuclear supply agreements which they have concluded over the years".

These statements took Indian officials by surprise. They had expected the NSG meeting to be a roaring success and the crowning of world recognition of India's "arrival on the global stage". They now describe its deliberations as a "blow" to India, even a "debacle".

Hectic and tough negotiations are reportedly in progress between the US and India on the draft of a new waiver text.

"The US will probably try to persuade India to accept at least one of the three proposed conditions, namely, exclusion of enrichment and reprocessing technology," says Ramana. "It is hard to say if India will agree to this while accepting a periodic review of its non-proliferation commitments and cessation of cooperation in case of an Indian nuclear test."

The Indian government has repeatedly said the deal does not, and cannot, compromise its "sovereign" right to test.

"But it seems even more unlikely," adds Ramana, "that the NSG dissenters will be satisfied with such a modified draft. The chances of the deal going through before the present term of the US Congress ends seem low."

Whatever happens, one thing is clear. Unless the movers of the amendments calling for such conditions can be persuaded, cajoled or coerced into dropping them, India must eat humble pie, agree to a compromise, and make the best of a bad deal. Or, India can walk away and lose the deal altogether - at least in the George W Bush administration's term.

Neither prospect is pleasant for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who took his government to the brink by staking his personal stature on the deal and losing the support of the left parties, substituting it with an alliance with the less reliable and opportunistic Samajwadi Party.

If the deal collapses, Manmohan's position in the ruling coalition could become shaky. If he signs a compromised agreement, he will be accused of being a "sellout".

IPS correspondent Praful Bidwai is a noted peace activist and co-founder of the Movement in India for Nuclear Disarmament, based in New Delhi.

(Inter Press Service)

India's Nuclear Disarmament Gets Critical

by Praful Bidwai, December 28, 2006

In October 2006, eight years after India and Pakistan crossed the nuclear threshold, the world witnessed yet another breakout, when North Korea exploded an atomic bomb and demanded that it be recognised as a nuclear weapons-state. Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, in return for security guarantees and economic assistance, collapsed last week.

In 2006, the ongoing confrontation between the Western powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear programme got dangerously aggravated. The United Nations Security Council imposed harsh sanctions on Iran but these may prove counterproductive.

Tehran dismissed the sanctions as illegal and vowed to step up its "peaceful" uranium enrichment programme. It added one more cascade of 164 uranium enrichment centrifuges during the year and is preparing to install as many as 3,000 of these machines within the next four months. (Several thousands of centrifuges are needed to build a small nuclear arsenal.)

Developments in South Asia added to this negative momentum as India and the United States took further steps in negotiating and legislating the controversial nuclear cooperation deal that they inked one-and-a-half years ago. The deal will bring India into the ambit of normal civilian nuclear commerce although it is a nuclear weapons-state and has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan continued to test nuclear-capable missiles and sustained their long-standing mutual rivalry despite their continuing peace dialogue. Looming large over these developments in different parts of Asia are the Great Powers, led by the U.S., whose geopolitical role as well as refusal to undertake disarmament has contributed to enhancing the global nuclear danger in 2006.

According to a just-released preliminary count by the Federation of American Scientists, eight countries launched more than 26 ballistic missiles of 23 types in 24 different events in 2006. They include the U.S., Russia, France and China, besides India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran.

"One can list other negative contributing factors too," says Sukla Sen, a Mumbai-based activist of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, an umbrella of more than 250 Indian organisations. "These include U.S. plans to find new uses for nuclear armaments and develop ballistic missile defence ("Star Wars") weapons, Britain's announcement that it will modernise its "Trident" nuclear force, Japan's moves towards militarisation, and a revival of interest in nuclear technology in many countries."

"Clearly," adds Sen, "61 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world has learnt little and achieved even less so far as abolishing the nucleus scourge goes. The nuclear sword still hangs over the globe. 2006 has made the world an even more dangerous place. The time has come to advance the hands of the Doomsday Clock." The Doomsday Clock, created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published from Chicago in the U.S., currently stands at seven minutes to midnight, the Final Hour. Since 1947, its minute hand has been repeatedly moved "forward and back to reflect the global level of nuclear danger and the state of international security".

The Clock was last reset in 2002, after the U.S. announced it would reject several arms control agreements, and withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibits the development of "Star Wars"-style weapons.

Before that, the Doomsday Clock was advanced in 1998, from 14 minutes to midnight, to just nine minutes before the hour. This was primarily in response to the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May that year.

The closest the Clock moved to midnight was in 1953, when the U.S. and the USSR both tested thermonuclear weapons. The Clock's minute hand was set just two minutes short of 12.

The lowest level of danger it ever showed was in 1991, following the end of the Cold War and the signature of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Clock then stood at 17 minutes to midnight.

"The strongest reason to move the minute hand forward today is the inflamed situation in the Middle East," argues M.V. Ramana, an independent nuclear affairs analyst currently with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Bangalore.

"Iran isn't the real or sole cause of worry. It's probably still some years away from enriching enough uranium to make a nuclear bomb. But there is this grave crisis in Iraq, which has spun out of Washington's control. And then there is Israel, which is a de facto nuclear weapons-state and is seen as a belligerent power by its neighbours in the light of the grim crisis in Palestine. All the crises in the Middle East feed into one another and aggravate matters," adds Ramana.

At the other extreme of Asia, new security equations are emerging, partly driven by the North Korean nuclear programme.

"Today, this is a key factor not only in shaping relations between the two Koreas, but the more complex and important relationship between North Korea, China, Japan and the U.S.", holds Alka Acharya, of the Centre of East Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here. Adds Acharya: "The U.S. has failed to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis diplomatically. North Korea's nuclear weapons programme will spur Japan and South Korea to add to their military capacities. There is a strong lobby in Japan which wants to rewrite the country's constitution and even develop a nuclear weapons capability. Recently, Japan commissioned a study to determine how long it would take to develop a nuclear deterrent."

Japan has stockpiled hundreds of tonnes of plutonium, ostensibly for use in fast-breeder reactors. But with the fast reactor programme faltering, the possibility of diversion of the plutonium to military uses cannot be ruled out. Similarly, South Korea is likely to come under pressure to develop its own deterrent capability.

"Driving these pursuits are not just nuclear calculations, but also geopolitical factors," says Prof. Achin Vanaik who teaches international relations and global politics at Delhi University. "The U.S. plays a critical role here because of its aggressive stance and its double standards. It cannot convincingly demand that other states practise nuclear abstinence or restraint while it will keep it own nuclear weapons for 'security'. Eventually, Washington's nuclear double standards will encourage other countries to pursue nuclear weapons capabilities too."

In particular, the joint planned development of ballistic missile defence weapons by the U.S. and Japan is likely to be seen by China as a threat to its security and impel Beijing to add to its nuclear arsenal. Adds Vanaik: "The real danger is not confined to East Asia or West Asia alone. The overall worldwide impact of the double standards practised by the nuclear weapons-states, and especially offensive moves like the Proliferation Security Initiative proposed by the U.S. to intercept 'suspect' nuclear shipments on the high seas, will be to weaken the existing global nuclear order and encourage proliferation. The U.S.-India nuclear deal sets a horribly negative example of legitimising proliferation." "A time could soon come when a weak state or non-state actor might consider attacking the U.S. mainland with mass-destruction weapons. The kind of hatreds that the U.S. is sowing in volatile parts of the world, including the Middle East, could well result in such a catastrophe,'' Vanaik said.

The year 2006 witnessed a considerable weakening of the norms of nuclear non-proliferation. Until 1974, the world had five declared nuclear weapon-states and one covert nuclear power (Israel). At the end of this year, it has nine nuclear weapons-states -- nine too many.

No less significant in the long run is the growing temptation among many states to develop civilian nuclear power. Earlier this month, a number of Arab leaders met in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia and decided to start a joint nuclear energy development programme.

"Although this doesn't spell an immediate crisis, nuclear power development can in the long run provide the technological infrastructure for building nuclear weapons too," says Ramana. "The way out of the present nuclear predicament does not lie in non- or counter-proliferation through ever-stricter technology controls. The only solution is nuclear disarmament. The nuclear weapons-states must lead by example, by reducing and eventually dismantling these weapons of terror."

The writer is a Delhi-based researcher, peace and human rights activist, and former newspaper editor.

First published by Inter Press Service.