Our New Strategic Partner

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"The U.S.-India
civil nuclear deal is a strategic win," according to Secretary
of State Condi Rice, and "seen in the larger context of the
elevation of India-United States relationship" to "a strategic
partnership," she urged Congress this week to approve it. How
can a "civil" nuclear deal do that?

It can’t. It’s
really a deal that allows the Indians to import nuclear power plants,
while focusing their domestic nuclear program on producing nukes
to be delivered via ballistic missile to China.

That’s how
this deal makes us "strategic" partners.

So, what’s
the deal?

Well, India
became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency back in

The primary
mission of the IAEA is to facilitate the widest possible international
transfer and safe application of nuclear energy. Its secondary mission
is to ensure – insofar as it is able – that the materials,
equipment and technology so transferred are not used in furtherance
of a military purpose.

To accomplish
its missions, the IAEA requires the subjection to the IAEA Safeguards
and Physical Security regime those materials, equipment and technology
so transferred.

In the event
the IAEA determines that safeguarded materials or equipment are
used in furtherance of a military purpose, the IAEA is required
to report that to the U.N. Security Council.

India has IAEA
Safeguards Agreements in force, covering some – but not all
– civil nuclear activities.

But the Treaty
on Non-Proliferation on Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 1970
and India – which would have had to pledge "not to manufacture
or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons" and to subject all
of its nuclear activities to a Safeguards Agreement – refused
to sign it.

Then, in 1974,
India tested what it claimed was a "peaceful" nuclear
explosive device.

As a direct
result, the Nuclear Suppliers Group was established. Comprised of
44 nuclear-supplier states – including China, Russia and the
United States – NSG members voluntarily agreed to coordinate
their export controls governing transfers of civilian nuclear material
and nuclear-related equipment and technology to non-nuclear-weapon

The NSG has
two sets of guidelines. Part I comprises materials and technology
intended specifically for nuclear use, including fissile materials,
nuclear reactors and associated equipment, and nuclear material
reprocessing and enrichment equipment.

Part II comprises
dual-use equipment that could have nuclear applications.

IAEA safeguards
are only required on the specific nuclear activity or facility where
the NSG Part II imports will be employed.

But, since
1992, to be eligible for importing Part I items from an NSG member
– irrespective of whether they are NPT signatories or not –
importing states must have in place a comprehensive IAEA Safeguards
Agreement covering all their nuclear activities and facilities.

Hence, the
IAEA-NSG nuke proliferation-prevention regime effectively supercedes
the NPT. The NSG "verifies" the intended peaceful use
of nuclear exports and the IAEA "verifies" the peaceful
use of nuclear imports.

In 2001, the
Bush-Cheney administration – citing NSG Part I guidelines –
had attempted to prevent the refueling of the Safeguarded Tarapur
atomic power station by Russia unless India agreed to subject all
its nuclear facilities – civil and military – to IAEA
Safeguards. Russia and India successfully cited the necessity of
refueling for emergency "safety" considerations.

Now, Condi’s
strategic partnership deal with India will require NSG members –
including China and Russia – to permanently "waive"
Part I guidelines for India. If they do, that will effectively gut
the IAEA-NSG supra-NPT nuke proliferation prevention regime.

But, Condi’s
real problem is Congress.

You see, as
a direct result of the Indian nuclear weapons tests in 1974, Congress
amended the Arms Export Control Act to prohibit even "economic
assistance" to any "recipient country" unless that
country "has entered into an agreement with the International
Atomic Energy Agency to place all such equipment, materials, technology,
and all nuclear fuel and facilities in such country under the safeguards
system of such Agency."

So French President
Chirac will probably turn out to be right. The deal he cut with
the Indians is better "because it is not subject to the hazards
of the American Congress."

10, 2006

James Gordon Prather [send
him mail
] has served as a policy-implementing official for national
security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency,
the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department
of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department
of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for
national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. –
ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the
Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather
had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory
in New Mexico.

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