[EDITORIALS]Eye U.S.-India pact closelyU.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sealed a nuclear cooperation pact last week in New Delhi. Under a previous agreement, India pledged to identify which of its 22 reactors were for civilian or military use. It has now identified 14 reactors, either existing or under construction, as civilian, and agreed to give inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to them. In return, the United States agreed to sell reactors, fuel and equipment to India to build power stations.
Consequently, India can now receive the support it needs to develop its nuclear program while, at the same time, develop a nuclear military program outside of international nuclear inspection.
As a non-member of the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), India is thought to already own some 30 to 35 nuclear warheads. Mr. Bush’s favoring of India is a grave challenge to the NPT which forbids the introduction or accumulation of nuclear weapons in member countries. Under this treaty, only the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain are permitted to have nuclear weapons. Now, the United States has acquiesced to India becoming a sixth nuclear power.
Naturally, the United States will be criticized for pulling down the foundation of the NPT and for holding different standards for different countries when it comes to nuclear programs. Of course, the United States’ decision derived from a strategic need to draw India to its side to check China, as well as an economic calculation to sell its reactors, fuel and equipment for India’s civilian reactors.
Nevertheless, by signing this agreement, the United States will no longer be able to call itself the bulwark of the NPT. There are even those who see this as drawing a new era in the treaty, which has been struggling to move on since its inception 35 years ago.
The U.S.-India nuclear pact will likely weaken the case against Iran’s nuclear program now being discussed in the UN Security Council. It will also influence North Korea.
The United States claim is that India is a democratic country and that, unlike Iran, North Korea and Pakistan, there is no risk of India exporting its nuclear technology or weapons.
It might be likely that the United States will achieve its intention of checking China through a strategic partnership with a nuclear-armed India. If all goes as intended, it would be the beginning of a United States-Japan-India alliance stretching across the Asian region.
There was much controversy even within the United Stated over this pact. Not only Democrats but Republicans as well, voiced their concern over the deal. Their concerns should be taken into full consideration when the pact is ratified and changes made in the present Atomic Energy Act which forbids the transfer of nuclear technology to countries which have not signed the NPT.
In addition, the 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group should evaluate this pact carefully from the perspective of what it could do to the future of the NPT.