India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Today, the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group decided to approve a nuclear deal between the United States and India (which is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and which tested bombs between 1974 and 1998). The decision is one about which I feel ambivalent. One the one hand, it might promote the relatively responsible use of nuclear technologies in India. Despite how we could probably do better by spending our money in other ways, more nuclear power is a likely consequence of concerns about both energy security and climate change. On the other hand, the deal demonstrates that it is possible states can test bombs, remain outside the NPT, and still get access to internationally-provided nuclear fuels and technologies. The lesson to other states may be that the best long-term course of action is to ignore international efforts aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Thinking about how many states are likely to have reactors and bombs by the end of the next century is pretty worrisome.

More comprehensive reporting on the decision:

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group”

  1. America’s nuclear deal with India
    Time to decide

    Aug 28th 2008
    From The Economist print edition
    There should be no exemption for India from the world’s nuclear rules

    IN A dangerous and unstable world, isn’t cementing friendship with an up-and-coming power such as India worth breaking a few rules for? That is the reasoning behind the Bush administration’s championing of a controversial civilian nuclear deal with India, which George Bush and India’s Manmohan Singh struck in 2005. To take effect it now needs only an India-sized hole to be punched next week in the global rules on nuclear trade and then a final nod from America’s Congress.

    The trade restrictions of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are supposed to apply to countries that, like India, have built bombs rather than sign up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In return for exempting India from these restrictions, the Bush administration hopes India will be a bulwark against China. Doubters in Congress and opponents abroad have also been lectured on the supposed benefits of bringing India into the “non-proliferation mainstream”.

  2. For India, an exemption from NSG restrictions on nuclear trade would be an answer to its nuclear prayers: but its military ones, not its civilian ones. India is short of usable uranium. If it could buy foreign fuel for its civilian reactors, it could devote more of the stuff it makes at home to bomb-building. That alone ought to give pause to any government that takes seriously its obligation under the NPT’s Article 1: not to help others in any way with weapons-building.

    The NSG was set up precisely to stop countries doing what India did to get a start in the bomb business: abusing technology and skills provided for civilian purposes. The group’s ban on trade with countries that break the non-proliferation rules has been the chief underpinning of the NPT regime. Waive the ban and the NSG will have little point. It should refuse to make an exception for India. And so should America’s Congress.

  3. India’s nuclear deal with America
    Quantum politics

    Sep 11th 2008 | DELHI
    From The Economist print edition
    Celebrating a diplomatic triumph

    AT THE atomic level, the laws of classical physics bend in intriguing ways. On September 6th, the world’s nuclear rules proved equally pliable. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 45-nation cartel that limits trade in nuclear materials and technology, passed a “waiver”, allowing it to do business with India (see article). Only five other countries (America, Britain, China, France and Russia) both enjoy the privileges of nuclear commerce and have nuclear weapons. And unlike India, those other five have all signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (although America and China have yet to ratify the latter).

    This diplomatic coup was all the more notable because India is the reason the cartel exists. It was formed to prevent a repeat of India’s 1974 nuclear test, which exploited the civilian nuclear help India received under America’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative. This was, the Times said, a “delicious irony”.

    India’s nuclear waiver
    A legacy project

    Sep 11th 2008
    From The Economist print edition
    Mourning an exemption that may defeat the rules

    FOR India’s embattled prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and America’s soon-to-depart president, George Bush, the waiver for India agreed on September 6th by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is meant to build a lasting legacy: their own. Critics fear its real testament will be lasting damage to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

  4. Pakistan demands US nuclear deal

    Pakistan has said that India’s civilian nuclear trade agreement with the US should open the way for a similar deal with Islamabad.

    Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters that Washington should not discriminate between South Asia’s two nuclear armed nations.

    Pakistan has long opposed efforts by the US administration to push through the deal with India.

    Critics warned that approving it could lead to a regional nuclear arms race.

  5. India: The Internal Struggle Over the Nuclear Deal
    July 8, 2008

    India’s communist parties announced plans July 8 to withdraw from the governing coalition over New Delhi’s controversial nuclear deal with the United States. The Congress-led government will likely survive the pullout, but time is running out for the deal to succeed.

  6. Canada to allow civil nuclear trade with India

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Canadian firms will be able to export uranium and nuclear reactors to India for the first time in almost four decades under an agreement between the two nations, their prime ministers said, but more work is needed to implement the deal.

    Once implemented, the agreement will end a ban on nuclear cooperation Canada imposed in 1976 after India secretly exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1974, commonly called the “Smiling Buddha”, using material from a Canadian-built reactor in India.

    “Being able to resolve these issues and move forward is, we believe, a really important economic opportunity for an important Canadian industry, part of the energy industry, that should pay dividends in terms of jobs and growth for Canadians down the road,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday on a visit to New Delhi.

    It was not clear how quickly the deal will take effect. The two countries signed a nuclear cooperation pact two years ago and on Tuesday said they had concluded negotiations on the “administrative arrangements”.

  7. In fact India’s ties with America are broadly friendly but tetchy enough to allay nationalist concerns. As for proliferation, India has a good record itself, though the deal allowed worse-behaved countries, such as Iran and North Korea, to allege Western hypocrisy. Under American pressure the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group ended its isolation of India. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) signed an India-specific “additional protocol” giving its inspectors access to India’s civil sites, though not its military ones. India’s government said on June 23rd it had at last ratified that protocol.

    Yet if fears were overdone, gains are so far disappointing. India plans to tackle its chronic shortage of energy, and costly reliance on imports of fossil fuels, with a big nuclear-energy programme: some 19 working reactors, five under construction and at least 16 more planned. But expansion requires imported uranium as fuel (miners fail to extract enough from domestic deposits) plus foreign capital and expertise to build big reactors of 1,000MW or more.

    Uranium will come. Australia, notably, is negotiating terms to export the fuel, ending a ban as it seeks strategic ties with a fellow Asian democracy. But big new reactors are not being built, as American, French and Russian contractors hold back. Japanese builders would in theory like to enter. A Japan-India civil-nuclear deal could be discussed when Narendra Modi, the new prime minister, visits Japan, probably in August. But its investors will wait for changes to India’s regulations.

  8. Meanwhile India’s nuclear arsenal is swelling. A recent report by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a research organisation, estimates that it has 130-140 nuclear warheads, with enough fissile material for 60-70 more. The stockpile, though smaller than Pakistan’s and half the size of China’s, has roughly doubled since 2010. Many of the new warheads will go to sea. A second nuclear submarine, the Arighant, is nearing completion, and a third is in the works. Others are expected to follow. Indian sailors should enjoy the fresh air while they can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *