India and nuclear regret... By Sameer
05 September, 2013
It is ironic how money and influence enable violators to become custodians and gatekeepers for the same goods they stole. Would the world want to keep a proliferator as a guardian? A case in point is the Indian nuclear proliferation and the subsequent 'peaceful' nuclear explosion of 1974, once the Indians diverted Canadian-supplied fuel for making the bomb. India also capitalised on the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was not a party to the agreement governing the civilian use of the nuclear reactor. Interestingly, Canada has recently entered into negotiations with India over civil nuclear cooperation saying that India has an excellent “non-proliferation record”.
In the aftermath of this Indian abuse of trust and peaceful cooperation, the London Suppliers Group — later re-christened as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) — was formed. The idea was to create an informal setting that could add another preventive layer for ensuring non-proliferation of nuclear technology for military purposes. London, which facilitated meetings to plug this gap back in 1974, has recently circulated papers at the plenary sessions for India's inclusion in the NSG. The so-called champions of global non-proliferation, like the US, UK, France, Canada and Australia are now the leading states in maintaining double standards by pushing for Indian participation in the NSG. It is ironic that the criterion for participation in the export cartel has been cast away. This is reminiscent of the Orwellian satirical adage, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
In a weak defence for making an exception for India, the argument offered is that it is better to engage India in an arrangement where it may also be held responsible. This excuse has an inherent flaw. Under the nuclear deal with the US, India was required to bring some of its nuclear facilities under safeguards; still, it managed to retain eight reactors outside the IAEA safeguards. India also maintained leverage in deciding which future plants would be placed under safeguards. For instance, the Indian fast breeder reactor and others of its kind will remain outside the IAEA safeguards, thus exponentially enhancing its bomb-making potential. If not checked, it is only a matter of time before India will beat its newfound mentors in their own game. Its long-range missile development programme is the first pointer. Soon, Australia, Europe and even the US will have to factor in the intercontinental reach of India's Agni-5 and 6 in their threat calculus. The economic incentive that India offers and the honeymoon period may not last long.
In fact, these export control cartels champion non-proliferation but actually are a means of technology control and maintaining monopoly. Hence, the legal and normative barriers do not come in the way of political expediency and power maximisation that like-minded states want to exercise. With all the perks on its side, India remains free as a bird to consider its options. The only benefit that the other states see at the moment is monetary. The US is already on the losing side. India is getting into nuclear cooperation agreements with almost all the suppliers except the US. During the recently concluded India-US strategic dialogue, the US failed to woo India into buying Westinghouse's power plant. It would be a double whammy for the US if its archrival, China, ultimately outbids others in the competition to sell plants to India. The current enthusiasts of granting India NSG membership would then be left regretting their moves.