Last week, foreign relations committees in both the House and the Senate quietly passed resolutions expressing support for a potential U.S.-India nuclear energy deal. The proposal would provide India with access to nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors from the United States.
Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), access to peaceful nuclear technology has been provided by nuclear states only to those nations that agree to forego nuclear weapons, something that India has not pledged to do nor has the U.S. required. Congressional committees carved out an exception to the nuclear trade law so that India can receive nuclear technology. But the committees refused amendments that would have required the Bush administration to certify the technology would not be used to benefit the Indian nuclear weapons program.
The U.S.-India nuclear deal is “going [to] weaken our case with Iran; it’s going to weaken our case with North Korea,” argued Christopher Paine, senior nuclear programs analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA), who voted against the nuclear deal, explained why:
Terming India as a ‘’reliable steward’’ of nuclear technology, Watson said her concerns were beyond India. ‘’I do not fear India with nuclear power. I do fear a world where both India and the US must face a nuclear Iran or a nuclear North Korea. Our key tool for constraining nuclear designs of Iran and North Korea has been Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, or NPT,’’ Watson told The Indian Express. Watson said her main fear was that this legislation would damage the NPT to the point that we would make it harder to stop the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes.
The Bush administration does not seem the understand the difficulties. Bush said in response to the recent North Korean missile tests: “I view this as an opportunity to remind the international community that we must work together to continue to work hard to convince the North Korean leader to give up any weapons programs.” The India nuclear deal makes that case harder.