India Nuclear Deal Signed; Bush Predicts Security under Closer Relations

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Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Bush yesterday signed a bill establishing civilian nuclear ties with India, a dramatic break in three decades of U.S. nonproliferation policy but a step that the Bush administration said will closer bind both nations and redraw the balance of power in Asia.

"After 30 years outside the system, India will now operate its civilian nuclear energy program under internationally accepted guidelines - and the world is going to be safer as a result," Mr. Bush said, signing legislation that could allow U.S. nuclear technology to be shared with India for nonmilitary purposes.

As the president's push to establish democracies sputters in the Middle East, the India agreement gives him a major international diplomatic accomplishment in another part of the world. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns called it one of the most important strategic accomplishments of Mr. Bush's tenure.

"The real importance of the legislation the president is signing today is not just the nuclear aspect; it's the wider implications for the benefit to the United States strategically of having this huge democratic power now very close to the United States and us close to them," he said.

Those new ties come as the United States tries to manage relations with Pakistan and figure out a way to deal with China - both of which see India as a competitor.

The deal had overwhelming support in Congress, passing last week in the Senate by unanimous consent and in the House by 330-59.

Opponents, though, said the agreement marks a retreat in the United States' stated goal of containing nuclear proliferation. Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, called it "an historic mistake."

"It has shredded the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; it has emboldened Iran's nuclear-weapons program and has vastly increased India's capacity to make nuclear weapons to 40 to 50 nuclear bombs per year from two to three nuclear bombs per year," he said.

And Michael Krepon, a former arms-control official, said the deal opens the door to other nations helping Iran or Pakistan bolster their nuclear programs.

"You can count on this happening. You can count on China demanding an exception for Pakistan. And you can count on Russia down the road demanding an exception for Iran," said Mr. Krepon, who is also co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, an international affairs institute. "The export-control system that we rely upon for nonproliferation has taken a big hit with this deal."

The Indian government says the deal erodes the international controls over its nuclear program - but sees that as a good thing.

"Eventually, our objective is that technology denial regimes that have targeted India for so many decades must be dismantled so that our national development is unimpeded," the minister of external affairs, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, told parliament last week, according to the Hindu newspaper. …