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US Congressman vows to scuttle nuclear deal
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | March 03, 2006 09:53 IST
Last Updated: March 03, 2006 10:33 IST
One of the fiercest critics against nuclear proliferation in the United States Congress has reacted angrily to the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the United States and vows to scuttle the deal which he asserts has blown a hole in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
In an immediate reaction to the deal announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush following their summit in New Delhi on March 2, US Congressman Edward Markey says in a last minute rush to get a nuclear deal with India at any cost, President Bush appears to have caved to Indian demands.
The Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts is the co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation and the seniormost Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the US Congress.
"The United States has now pushed over a nuclear domino that falls against 187 other nations -- all signers of the Nonproliferation Treaty -- to review why they should honour a document which the nuclear superpowers no longer respect," he complains, adding, "It empowers the hawks in every rogue nation to put their nuclear weapons plans on steroids now that they can no longer be isolated as non-signers of an agreement that has been shredded."
Markey claims there is bipartisan opposition to the deal in the US Congress, as it is another case of the Bush administration announcing a commercial deal without due regard for its impact on national security interests.
While acknowledging that the full details are not yet available, Markey -- considered the fiercest nonproliferation advocate in the US House of Representatives -- argues it appears that the Bush administration is "going to open up nuclear trade with a country which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which refuses to accept full scope international safeguards over its nuclear facilities, and which refuses to halt fissile materials for nuclear bombs."
Markey asserts that the Bush administration has failed to come up with a safeguards plan that has any credibility and lamented that the administration's negotiators failed to insist that all of India's old spent fuel be safeguarded against diversion to weapons; ailed to get India to agree to halt production of new fissile material for bombs; failed to get India to put its fast breeder reactors under safeguards.
He feels the safeguards are so weak that India will be able to divert enough material from its civilian programme to build more than 1,000 nuclear weapons in addition to the 50 to 100 bombs it has already built, "all with the approval of the United States of America."
"If we allow India this loophole," Markey argues, "Pakistan, like India, a country that has not signed the Nonproliferation Treaty, has already indicated its interest in making a similar deal if not with the US, then with China. Iran, a country that has signed the NPT, will note that US insistence on compliance with full scope safeguards appears to be limited to countries that it does not like."
He warns if other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group "follow the example set in this deal, the entire nuclear nonproliferation regime will begin to collapse, and we may ultimately return to the kind of world that President John F Kennedy once feared, 'a world in which we don't ask who has the bomb, but who does not'."
"I intend to fight this terrible agreement and block any legislation would alter restrictions on nuclear trade in law," he says. "At the same time, I believe 45 nations who members Nuclear Suppliers Group need send a strong signal President Bush and US Congress if they do wish to see NSG guidelines destroyed."
Last July, the ink was hardly dry on the US-India Joint Statement of July 18, with the civilian nuclear cooperation component between Washington and New Delhi as its centerpiece when Markey on that very day introduced an amendment in the US Congress strongly opposing the deal.
On the eve of the President's departure to India, Markey assembled a coalition to scuttle the deal comprising several arms control organizations led by the Arms Control Association, The Union of Concerned Scientists and environmental groups including The Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club.
In announcing the mobilisation of this coalition, Markey declared, 'We believe that it is an agreement that is not in the best interests of the security of the United States and the rest of the world.'
In an interview with rediff.com, Markey denies he is anti-India, declaring, "I am a friend of India and many of the people who consider themselves big friends of India think there are better ways for the United States to help India in the electricity generating sector that would help both climate change and the pollution respiratory element related issues in India combined with the retention of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, without this exception."
On the separation plan that was agreed to by Bush and Dr Singh in New Delhi, Markey says, "The premise to me is an oxymoron. There cannot be a credible separation plan without full scope safeguards and the entire purpose of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards is to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials from a civilian reactor to military use."
"But in India we would be imposing safeguards on civilian plants when there would be a military nuclear infrastructure operating in parallel and that renders safeguards as illusory," he says. "They may give some modicum of comfort that the reactors and our nuclear fuel aren't directly supporting the Indian nuclear weapons arsensal, but would be indirectly assisting the Indian military programme freeing up India's stockpile of fissile material for military rather than civilian use."
Markey believes that as the US Congress and as the nation "understand more fully what the ramifications are of horizontal nuclear proliferation, the more this issue is going to be very difficult for the administration to move forward."
In New Delhi, an Indian official associated with the negotiations with the United States, asked a rediff.com correspondent, "How many Congressmen has Markey supporting him? Six at best."