Special Article Non-Proliferation~II 27,000 Nuclea

Even though India opted to stay out of the NPT, its policies have been consistent with the key provisions of the treaty contained in Articles I, II and VI that apply to the Nuclear Weapon State. It is now well recognised that India has neither transferred nuclear weapons to any other state nor assisted any to acquire these. India’s exports of nuclear materials have always been under safeguards and India has been a leader in urging the NWS to pursue negotiations to achieve the goal of total nuclear disarmament. 
Compared with this impeccable track record, some of them have been active collaborators in or silent spectators to continuing clandestine and illegal proliferation, including export of nuclear weapon components and technologies. The NWS have followed a discriminatory and inconsistent approach to enforcing the treaty, with selective focus on the recipients of clandestine proliferation but not enough attention on the sources of supply. The USA and Russia have consistently refused to cut their nuclear stockpiles substantively even after the end of the Cold War. Such an attitude feeds and strengthens the belief that nuclear weapons are a currency of power. 

Revived interest

There is a revival of interest in nuclear energy, not just due to rising oil prices but also due to serious environmental concerns leading to rising demand for clean energy and also due to the inevitability of the shrinking fossil fuel resources. Today’s challenge is to simultaneously ensure that while horizontal as well as vertical proliferation of nuclear warhead technology is prevented, trade and commerce in nuclear technology are allowed to flourish unhindered. 

Understandably, the non-proliferation ayatollahs the world over have been up in arms against the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement. Policy and opinion-makers in India readily accept that the Indo-US nuclear deal represents a major concession that has been made by the US and fully understand that it is an issue of concern for the international non-proliferation community. However, they like to emphasise that this privilege has been accorded in recognition of India’s responsible and unblemished conduct in limiting horizontal proliferation and that sufficient safeguards have been built in to take care of the non-proliferation concerns that might arise as fallout of the deal. 
In this era of strategic uncertainty, it is important to see the Indo-US nuclear deal in the larger geo-strategic framework and US policy and opinion makers are clearly taking their bearings from the emerging world order. Analysts in the US are divided in their perceptions of the deal. Dr Stephen Cohen is of the view that the agreement enhances American strategic interests, and “if properly implemented, it will advance, not retard, American non-proliferation objectives.” The initiative will help India move to an energy strategy that makes it less dependent on imported oil and that will positively address American global environmental concerns. Former Defence Secretary William Perry and a former top Pentagon aide, Ashton Carter, back the agreement. 
However, Robert Gallucci, a former top non-proliferation official at the State Department who negotiated a 1994 nuclear agreement with North Korea, urged the US Congress to reject the deal because it “trashes” the non-proliferation regime. There are other detractors of this deal as well. Noam Chomsky believes that “the agreement, if implemented, will be a serious blow to the NPT, and the network of treaties and international regimes in which it is embedded, some of which have already been dismantled by the Bush administration.” 

The fact that India has agreed to place two-thirds of its nuclear reactors under international safeguards has gone down well with most US lawmakers. Congressman Jim Kolbe said in his testimony to the House International Relations Committee: “If Congress enacts this legislation, India will have tougher nuclear scrutiny than is given to China, Russia and the major nuclear powers. None of these countries’ reactors are under any inspection regime. India would place at least two-thirds of its programme under the direct eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” It is this fact that finally convinced many initially skeptical Senators and Congressmen that the deal would have positive non-proliferation fallout and they supported it whole heartedly. 

Dr Ashley Tellis has gone one step further: “Bringing India into the global non-proliferation regime through a lasting international agreement that defines clearly enforceable benefits and obligations not only strengthens American efforts to stem proliferation but also enhances US national security… It recognises that it is unreasonable to ask India to continue to bear the burdens of contributing to ensuring the viability of the global non-proliferation regime in perpetuity, while it suffers stiff and encompassing sanctions from that same regime.” Michael A Levi and Charles D Ferguson recommend that the US should focus on the right objectives: “Finding a workable path forward requires that Congress reserve the bulk of its political capital for a handful of top-tier objectives. It should focus on preventing Indian nuclear testing and fundamental changes in Indian nuclear strategy, rather than on blocking growth in the number of Indian nuclear weapons...” 

These experts are also of the view that the Indo-US nuclear deal had no significant impact on the decisions of Iran and North Korea. In any case, the latter has now agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme in return for energy and other aid. Iran continues to blow hot and cold but also appears to be gradually veering around to becoming more accommodating. While it will definitely react violently to a military attack on its enrichment facilities, needs. 
Hence, it would be reasonable to conclude that the Indo-US nuclear deal does not in any noteworthy manner undermine the nuclear non-proliferation regime even as it makes a positive contribution to it by bringing the bulk of India’s civilian nuclear power reactors under the ambit of IAEA safeguards and inspections. 

International non-proliferation efforts would be considerably strengthened if all nuclear weapon states were to cut their arsenals, lower the alert status of their strategic weapons and boost cooperation in nuclear technologies for economic development, especially in the energy sector. Cuts in the nuclear arsenals of the NWS would be meaningful only if these were irreversible and verifiable. The strategies that must be followed to further international non-proliferation efforts should frustrate emerging nuclear weapons wannabes, contain “loose nukes” and build walls between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The “closed fuel cycle” gives errant countries an inherent capacity to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. 

Early consensus

The P-5 should build an international regime alongside the NPT to promote civilian nuclear power but discourage or prohibit closed nuclear fuel cycles. Such a regime could provide a key building block in a comprehensive nuclear non-proliferation strategy, promote the development of peaceful nuclear energy and institute automatic consequences for non-compliance with IAEA safeguards. There is an urgent need to continue efforts to tighten export control regimes and understand and accommodate rather than confront threshold states. Iran is one nation that needs sensitive handling. Nothing will be gained by questioning Iran’s nuclear energy needs and military action against it will definitely be counter-productive.
Early consensus on concluding the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty will be an important step forward. For counter-proliferation, international support is needed for the PSI and CSI initiatives launched by the US. Wider consultation is always better than “go it alone” strategies. Above all else, there is need to accelerate efforts towards total universal nuclear disarmament. 27,000 nuclear warheads are 27,000 too many. It has to be understood by the P-5 that total nuclear disarmament is a zero sum game.