Posted on August 18th, 2009

Saman Malik

Mohamed ElBaradei has aptly highlighted the prevailing unbalanced nuclear environment (Time magazine August 17, 2009). Baradei, whose reappointment was `vehemently opposed by the USAƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, every country has the right to nuclear technology.

The Nuclear SuppliersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ Group granted waiver to India though it had, like Pakistan, stayed away from signing the NPT. The NSG did so despite worldwide protests by ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”ABOLITION 2000ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, a conglomerate of 2,000 peace groups.

Critics drew attention to IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s lack-lustre `non-proliferationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ record. India has not only been exporting dual-use materials to countries aspiring to develop nuclear weapons but also imparting them necessary skills. The materials `exportedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ to Iran, Korea and other countries included, trimethyl phosphate, beryllium, titanium alloy rings, and even uranium. The rogue gallery of Indian nationals involved in global proliferation include Dr. Surendar, Dr. Anil Kumar Tiwari, Dr Mahesh, Panth, YSR Prasad, Sitaram Rai Mahadevan, Akhter Hussain, Qutbuddin Ahmed, P. Sudershan and M. Gopal. Lokanath Mahalingam, the scientist `missingƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ from the Kaiga (Karnataka) atomic station, later found dead, also, appears to have a slot on the gallery.

The NSG waiver was upshot of American arm-twisting tactics. George Bush had personally made telephone calls to several skeptical NSG members for expediting the waiver. A nuclear expert, Joe Crinicione, criticised Bush for having done `everything but actually selling nuclear weapons to IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. He had assessed, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-If the deal stands, India will use foreign fuel for its power reactors, freeing Indian uranium for its military reactors. He predicted: ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-India will be able to double or triple the number of weapons it can make annually. They could go from the 6-10, they can currently produce, to 30 a yearƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚. Peter R. Levoy also pointed out that India would surely turn `peacefulƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ nuclear imports into military use.

The waiver brought India closer to realising its dream of dominating the neighbouring countries. IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s defence hawks such as Braham Chellaney and Bharat Karnad have been advocating India to maintain a force of at least four-fleet ballistic-missile submarines, armed with 48 sea-launched ballistic missiles, 25 nuclear-armed inter-continental ballistic missiles, 40 nuclear intermediate-range ballistic missiles, 70 manned nuclear-equipped air-to-surface missiles and 25 demolition munitions. IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s increased nuclear capability would neutralize PakistanƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s concept of minimum nuclear deterrence that is ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”deterring IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s conventional military attack, or attempt to transform Pakistan into a weak, subservient BangladeshƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢.

India is now importing enriched uranium-reactor fuel under an agreement with the United States. She plans to convert all the plutonium made from that fuel to nuclear weapon status as soon as the plutonium is physically ready, which will be in about five years.

India will make this conversion despite the fact that the U.S. agreement restricts the plutonium to peaceful use. India also plans to convert the two U.S.-supplied power reactors at Tarapur ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ which are receiving the fuel ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ from peaceful to military production status. If these plans succeed, India will be able to shift about 1,800 kilograms of plutonium to military status ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬‚ enough for 225 atomic bombs.

India justifies all this by arguing that, in six years, when the U.S. pledge to supply fuel to the Tarapur reactors ends, all other rights under the trade agreement end as well. This means that the entire stockpile of plutonium made by the reactors will leave international inspection.

India’s pledge to restrict the plutonium to peaceful use will end, and so will India’s obligation not to transfer the plutonium to other countries or groups. She thus hopes to change the U.S. agreement into an option contract for bombs.

There are clear remedies for Indian defiance. The United States should ask France to cut off the fuel supply to the Tarapur reactors. France is supplying the fuel under the U.S. trade agreement, and has agreed to follow U.S. instructions in the event of a dispute with India. If nuclear trade remedies are not enough, the United States can cease making high-technology exports to India, such as the technology for building computers and fighter-plane engines and can drop plans to sell the supercomputer that India wants.

As a last step, the United States could use its power over international trade and lending. Canada could join in the trade remedies, and the Soviet Union, usually a solid supporter of nonproliferation, could stop exporting the heavy water that India needs to run all of its other nuclear reactors. If this were done, the Indian bomb would become an astronomically expensive substitute for the IndiaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s nuclear power program, rather than a cheap adjunct to it. India might then see that it could become less, rather than more powerful, by having more atomic bombs.

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