The US-India Nuclear Accord: Implications for the Nonproliferation Regime

By Paul, T. V. | International Journal, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

The US-India Nuclear Accord: Implications for the Nonproliferation Regime


Paul, T. V., International Journal


The US-India nuclear accord of July 2005 and the subsequent Henry Hyde nuclear cooperation act of December 2006 have generated considerable debate among supporters and opponents largely on the basis of its potential implications for the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Critics argue that the agreement undermines confidence in the nonproliferation regime; it enhances the political role of nuclear weapons, but it sets bad precedents for other states seeking nuclear weapons. It increases India's weapons capability and numbers and will result in a two-way nuclear arms race in Asia between India and Pakistan and India and China.1

In this article, I contend that the critics are stretching their points and that the accord's implications for the nonproliferation regime are not as negative as they portray. Although the accord may impinge on the regime in terms of legitimacy and fairness, its negatives are more than compensated by the positives, i.e., the integration of a rising major power as a responsible nuclear state with some restraints on its military program. In a political and strategic sense, it is better to have a rising global power inside the regime than of outside it. Bringing in India as a stakeholder of the regime is in the longer term to the benefit of the regime and to the cause of nuclear nonproliferation.

There are always tradeoffs and unintended consequences in major ground-breaking initiatives such as the US-India accord. For instance, during the 19703, when the US formed an alliance with China, that event pushed India onto the Soviet side, but it could have helped accelerate the Soviet decline later on. More importantly, China's political and economic integration-resulting from the Deng era reforms-would not have taken place without China's political rapprochement with the US. One can only imagine what China would be like today had there been no economic liberalization and political and economic integration of it into the global mainstream.

THE US-INDIAACCORD

The process that led to the U S-India nuclear cooperation act began in July 2005, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush signed an agreement to regularize India as a nuclear weapons state without a formal recognition ofthat status. That agreement simultaneously recognized India's energy needs and proliferation concerns. It stated that India would "assume the same responsibilities and practices" as the recognized nuclear weapons states. The chief components of the agreement, which were finalized at subsequent meetings between the two sides, are as follows: India will place the majority of its existing and under construction nuclear reactors as well as all future thermal and civilian breeder reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards; negotiate with the IAEA to put its civilian nuclear facilities under safeguards in perpetuity; permanently shut down the CIRUS reactor in Trombay in 2010; identify and declare nine other research facilities civilian; negotiate and sign the additional protocol with the IAEA (which will allow the agency to conduct inspections on civilian facilities without prior notice); create a robust national export control system; refrain from transferring enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not possess them; adhere to the missile technology control regime (MTCR) and the nuclear suppliers group (NSG) guidelines; continue its moratorium on nuclear testing; and work with the US to conclude the missile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), currently under negotiation in the Geneva disarmament forum.2 In return, the supplier restrictions and sanctions in the nuclear area that are in existence against India will be lifted. The US would spearhead the NSG (a forum of 45 countries) to lift its ban on nuclear trade with India.

After a series of protracted negotiations, as well as a side agreement on civil-military separation plan for its nuclear facilities by India, a joint statement reiterating the agreement was issued in March 2006 during the visit of Bush to India.

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