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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bush to sign US-India nuclear deal

US President George W. Bush will sign legislation enacting a landmark US-India nuclear agreement in a high-profile ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, his press office said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, and India's ambassador to Washington, Ronen Sen, will attend the event in the ornate East Room of the presidential mansion.

US lawmakers, and roughly 200 guests including Indian-American community leaders, will also attend the signing ceremony, according to Bush spokesman Carlton Carroll.

"The president looks forward to signing this bill into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India Strategic Partnership," Carroll said in a statement.

"This legislation will strengthen our global nuclear nonproliferation efforts, protect the environment, create jobs, and assist India in meeting its growing energy needs in a responsible manner," he said.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first agreed to it in July 2005 as part of a strategic partnership between the world's two biggest democracies, but ran into objections from critics worried about the spread of nuclear know-how.

Rice and others had to lobby hard to win approval for the deal from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls global atomic trade.

She also pushed hard for the agreement -- which lifts a ban on civilian nuclear trade imposed after India first conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1974 -- to be approved by both Houses of Congress.

Lawmakers had sought safeguards on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons technology before passing it overwhelmingly last week and handing the increasingly unpopular Bush administration a foreign policy success.

But critics say it still undermines global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, because India has refused to sign the international non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The pact offers India access to sophisticated US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for New Delhi allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities.

Military nuclear sites will remain closed to international inspections.

(Source: AFP)

1 comment:

Dr. Amit K. Maitra said...

It is a pleasure to read about President Bush signing the U.S.-India N Deal, as I believe it is a very rational and pragmatic approach toward solving a major foreign policy problem. As of today, the NPT signatories include all nations except Israel, India, and Pakistan. North Korea signed the treaty only to withdraw from it later to conduct a nuclear test. Negotiations are on to bring Pyongyang back into the treaty. Of the three non-signatories, Israel is not interested in civil nuclear commerce. That leaves only India and Pakistan. Pakistan, through A.Q. Khan’s notorious activities, stole nuclear technology and has engaged in terrible WMD proliferation. India has built a large nuclear infrastructure based on its indigenous expertise. It has designed its own reactors, including a fast breeder reactor, and is conducting research on conversion of thorium into uranium 233. While the United States orchestrated the restrictions on international commerce since 1974, it has come to terms with the reality that those restrictions are progressively losing relevance and impact as far as India is concerned. Thus, the current U.S. government has decided to treat India as an exceptional case. In doing so, the U.S. government points out that India has maintained an impeccable record on non-proliferation since it conducted its first nuclear test. Whenever foreign states such as Libya and Iran approached New Delhi for nuclear capability barters, Indian leaders from Indira Gandhi to everyone else who followed her have unequivocally, categorically, and resolutely refused to engage in such trades. That history and political culture and tradition encouraged the founders of the NSG to believe that there is a rock-solid and business-wise case to bring India into the non-proliferation regime. They cannot simply incorporate India into the NPT because the treaty would unravel if any attempt is made to amend it.

India shares its borders with two nuclear weapon powers (Pakistan and China) that have been engaging in nuclear proliferation. The non-proliferation community was impotent and failed to take action when that proliferation occurred in the 80s and 90s. Pakistan officially claims that its arsenal is deterrence against India. Under these circumstances, India has very little choice. For its own national security and national interest concerns, it cannot join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. Given such constraints, the founders of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) devised a very practical and sophisticated policy approach by making India a stakeholder in the non-proliferation regime; in this way, they are giving India its due recognition for its advanced nuclear technology and its non-proliferation record and paving the way for further promotion of non-proliferation. India will institutionalize rigorous export controls, place fourteen nuclear power reactors under international safeguards, and actively participate with the U.S. and other NSG countries in reducing WMD proliferations worldwide. Many U.S. foreign policy experts, including several ambassadors, agree that bringing India into the nuclear non-proliferation regime is entirely consistent with the U.S. and other NGS countries’ devotion to the NPT.

In March 2006, President George Bush said: "Pakistan is a different country, with different needs and a different history. All other countries are members of the NPT and if any of them were to breach the treaty, it would not amount to following the Indian example but that of North Korea.” Understanding and appreciation of India’s particular set of circumstances have moved the founders of the NSG to approve the waiver and frame a new creative approach to nuclear technology sharing and managing a more proliferation-proof fuel cycle that, in turn, would multiply the benefits of a cooler climate.

The issue that the NSG had to critically review was whether the benefits of bringing India as a stakeholder in the non-proliferation regime through the waiver would outweigh any perceived damage to the NPT. The NSG is on target - it is about to achieve its cherished goal of making the non-proliferation regime totally international by bringing India into it. Failure to see this unfolding drama is short-sighted and unfortunate. As President George W. Bush took office eight years ago, he was very conscious of the fact that, for 34 years, the biggest impediment to a close U.S. – India relationship was the continuing disagreement about India’s nuclear capability and its status in the international non-proliferation order. In fact, even before he entered the White House oval office, President Bush made up his mind to put in place the building blocks for a new relationship with India. He decided that India and the United States should have a new and strong relationship, akin to an alliance. His success brings to mind Allison Graham’s seminal article on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Graham Allison, Essence of Decision: The Cuban Missile Crisis (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971)), which espoused the notion that statesmanship requires visionary leaders to make tough choices and demonstrate political will. Henry Kissinger put it in more practical terms: “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh demonstrated that visionary leadership.