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US lobby once again attempts to derail N-deal

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 18, 2008 08:53 IST

In perhaps its last gasp, now that the writing is on the wall that the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement will be ultimately consummated at some point now, the non-proliferation lobby has written to all 535 members of the House and Senate to reject the accord.

The letter, coordinated by the Arms Control Association and the Campaign for Responsibility in Nuclear Trade, and signed by several independent non-proliferation experts and activists, former US Ambassadors, faith groups, and international security and disarmament organizations, urge lawmakers 'to actively support measures that would help address the numerous flaws and ambiguities in this proposal'.

They implored legislators 'to resist overtures to rush toward a vote without carefully considering the far-reaching nuclear non-proliferation and security implications of this unprecedented and complex agreement'.

"The energy, trade, and non-proliferation advantages of the proposal are vastly overstated by its proponents and the potential damage to the global non-proliferation system would be severe," they argued.

"Contrary to assertions by the administration, the proposal would not bring India sufficiently into conformance with non-proliferation behaviour expected of responsible nuclear-armed states," the letter added.

The signatories argued that 'paradoxically, the administration on September 6, jammed through the Nuclear Suppliers Group a wavier that does not incorporate the same common sense restrictions and conditions on nuclear trade with India that are required for US nuclear trade with India'.

They urged that 'before Congress acts on the agreement, US and Indian officials must resolve their differences on key issues including safeguards and the possible termination of the agreement in the event that India resumes testing'.

Among other requirements, the enabling legislation -- known as the Hyde Act -- that was approved by the Congress in 2006 and signed into law by President Bush, mandates a ban on the transfer of enrichment or reprocessing technologies to Indian national facilities (unless they are part of a safeguarded bilateral or multilateral research program) and a requirement to cut off nuclear trade if India resumes nuclear testing.

The letter by this coalition of non-proliferationists also informed lawmakers that:

  • India is one of only three states never to have signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, 'meaning it has not made a legally-binding commitment to achieve nuclear disarmament. Yet the arrangement would give India rights and privileges of civil nuclear trade that are more favourable than even for countries that are in good standing under the NPT.
  • The agreement would indirectly assist India's nuclear weapons program, which will likely worsen nuclear arms competition in Asia.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on a few additional Indian civil power reactors provide little non-proliferation value.
  • India has not publicly acknowledged safeguards would last indefinitely.
  • India has not filed its declaration of facilities to be safeguarded with the IAEA as required before Congress considers the Agreement.
  • The Bush Administration claims that no other nuclear supplier intends to transfer sensitive bomb material production technologies to India. However, 'until such time as there are new international guidelines barring enrichment and reprocessing technologies to non-NPT members, other states may engage in such trade with India'.
  • Congress should affirm that if India breaks its political pledge not to resume testing, 'US nuclear trade shall be terminated and the US will urge all other suppliers to follow suit'.

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