Congress Exempts India from Nuclear Trade Rules

By Boese, Wade | Arms Control Today, January/February 2007 | Go to article overview

Congress Exempts India from Nuclear Trade Rules


Boese, Wade, Arms Control Today


President George W. Bush Dec. 18 signed into law legislation making India eligible for broad U.S. civil nuclear exports for the first time in roughly three decades. But commencement of such trade still hinges on a series of negotiations that India's leader warned would be "difficult."

At a White House signing ceremony, Bush hailed the act as "one of the most important steps" toward reviving U.S.-lndian nuclear cooperation. U.S. nuclear trade with India essentially ceased after New Delhi's 1974 test of a nuclear device derived partially from Canadian and U.S. technologies transferred for peaceful purposes.

The measure signed by Bush was a merger and revision of two separate bills passed earlier in 2006 by lawmakers. (see ACT, September 2006 and December 2006.) Senators unanimously approved the compromise legislation a day after the House adopted it Dec. 8 by a 330-59 vote.

The act sets conditions for U.S. nuclear exports to nuclear-armed India. It also includes implementing legislation that clears the way for the United States to complete ratification and bring into force an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Such measures grant the agency greater authority to gather information inside a country on possible illicit nuclear weapons activities. In the case of the nuclear-armed United States, however, the instrument is mostly symbolic.

A concerted Bush administration campaign to persuade lawmakers to eliminate or dilute provisions from the House- or Senate-passed bills that upset the Indian government had mixed results.

Legislators maintained provisions that limit exports of enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy-water technologies to India to special cases. Such exports can be used to make bombs as well as energy, and U.S. policy is to deny their transfer. New Delhi had complained that this restriction singles out and slights India.

U.S. lawmakers also retained provisions for verifying that U.S. exports to India are not diverted to unintended destinations or purposes. India previously criticized the measures as distrustful. In a report accompanying the act, lawmakers argued the requirements "do not intend to impose a more intrusive regime than arrangements" for other U.S. nuclear pacts with foreign countries.

But Congress bowed to some pressure. A clause in the House bill that would have terminated trade if an Indian entity exported items contravening the export control guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or the Missile Technology Control Regime was modified to enable cooperation to continue if the president determines the Indian government was not involved or took corrective action. India is not a member of the two voluntary regimes, but New Delhi pledged to adhere to their export guidelines as part of the July 2005 U.S.-Indian cooperation framework agreed to by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (See ACT, September 2005.)

In addition, Congress softened a provision requiring that the U.S. government seek to block nuclear trade by other foreign suppliers to India if Washington ceases cooperation. Instead of explicitly mandating such an action, lawmakers made it a statement of policy.

Congress similarly relaxed a requirement that India actively support U.S. and international efforts to contain Iran's nuclear program. Senators had made such collaboration a condition for U.S.-Indian nuclear trade, but the final legislation does not. The administration, however, is supposed to report annually to Congress on India's cooperation. The annual reports also are to include information on Indian nuclear weapons developments.

The act maintains that winning India's help in keeping Iran's nuclear program in check is a U.S. policy goal. But Bush noted after signing the act that all of its policy statements would be treated as "advisory."

The original sponsor of the Iran-related condition, Sen. …

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