Nuclear nonproliferation ayatollahs

The Good Ol’ Boys Club of 1968 is dead.  Move on.

On his blog, Michael Krepon revisits the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement today and asks whether it was a worthwhile project, when considered against the backdrop of existing nonproliferation norms and the idea of “Indian exceptionalism” that led to the eventual implementation of the nuclear deal. This comes on the heels of additional criteria laid out by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) curbing Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) technology transfers to non-NPT signatories.  It appears that the nonproliferation ayatollahs in DC have awoken from a long slumber and have once again set their sights on India and the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement.

But don’t take my word for it.  Consider some of the arguments put forth by Dr. Krepon:

One, even with the positive outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, nonproliferation norms took a hit from the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal and, at best, will take time to reinforce. The deal has added to the IAEA’s woes and has made the NSG a weaker institution.

Two, negative nuclear trend lines within Pakistan have grown steeper and will be harder to reverse.

All good DC nonprolif ayatollahs like to make the case that Pakistan’s nuclear mess is inexorably linked to India’s status as a nuclear power.  But Pakistan has been operating outside the nonproliferation system for decades to develop nuclear weapons and build up its nuclear arsenal and delivery systems.  A gentleman by the name of AQ Khan can provide full and complete information about how Pakistan managed to develop a nuclear program in the first place.

And contrary to popular myth, Pakistan sought to build a nuclear weapons program well before India conducted a nuclear test in 1974.  Pakistan was up to no-good decades before the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal; the only difference post the nuclear deal is that it is far more brazen in admitting its violation of nonproliferation norms.  The rhetoric has changed, but actions haven’t.

Three, the arc of U.S.-Indian relations has improved, but with far less loft than the Bush administration’s deal makers conceived. Trade and investment will grow, as will defense sales and cooperation in some areas. This would have been the case whether or not the Bush administration had decided to pursue the civil nuclear deal. Indeed, these advances were delayed because it took five years of high-level attention to close this deal.

That Indo-U.S. trade would have grown with or without the nuclear deal is perhaps a fair argument. But the question here is not about if Indo-U.S. trade will grow, but by what magnitude.  Since 2000, Indo-U.S. trade has grown at an average of 13% year over year, and while Indo-U.S. trade dipped in 2009, it can largely be attributed to the global economic downturn.

Despite this, Indo-U.S. trade grew by 30% in 2010 — faster than at any time during the decade.  Bilateral trade will likely grow further were the U.S. to participate in India’s nuclear energy market, valued at $150 billion.  Let’s also not forget the the civil nuclear deal was passed in Congress in 2008.  Three years is an insufficient period of time to draw such broad conclusions on the utility of the nuclear deal — especially given the financial crisis.

Four, the notion of India joining the “nonproliferation mainstream,” as advocates of the deal predicted, has been a mirage. Instead, New Delhi has closed ranks with NAM states balking at stronger nonproliferation norms. India remains in limbo on the CTBT, seemingly far from ready to sign or to resume underground tests. Fissile material production for nuclear weapons continues; India, like Pakistan, may have doubled its inventory of nuclear weapons over the past decade.

Again, this is disingenuous.  It was Brazil and Egypt via the NAM that raised (valid, in my opinion) concerns about the nature of Additional Protocols articulated by the NSG; India for its part has always opposed the NPT in its current structure.  Its position on the discriminatory nature of the NPT has not changed, pre- or post-nuclear deal.  Yes, India hasn’t signed the CTBT, but if it is truly as spectacular as some would like us to believe it is, then why hasn’t the U.S. ratified the CTBT yet?

Further, comparing India and Pakistan on nuclear weapons production is absurd.  Yes, India has increased its inventory of nuclear weapons, because serious production only commenced after Pokhran-II in 1998.  Even this was severely curtailed because India’s CIRUS reactor was shut down for repairs in 1997 and was only reopened in 2003.  Contrast this against Pakistan, which went from having about 60 nuclear weapons in 2007 to an estimated 110 in 2011.  Still think India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs are comparable?  I guess not; but then the ability to distinguish between problem and solution has never been a hallmark of nonproliferation ayatollahs.

Five, New Delhi continues to titrate improved strategic cooperation with the United States, especially given domestic political sensitivities about U.S. infringements on Indian sovereignty. New Delhi also continues to improve ties with Beijing. It is folly to presume that Washington can leverage New Delhi’s dealings with Beijing. The civil nuclear deal was a poor choice to help India become a stronger counterweight to China.

Why, then, did the Bush administration make this deal the centerpiece of bilateral relations during its second term? Why tackle the toughest nut first, incurring unnecessary and perhaps long-lasting damage to nonproliferation norms? It’s obvious why New Delhi embraced the Bush administration’s gift horse of a civil nuclear deal. Those in India who argued that it was a Trojan horse have been proven wrong on every count. So far, U.S. backers of the deal have also been proven wrong on every count. [Arms Control Wonk]

First, India, left to its own, will always pursue an independent foreign policy; this was true in the decades past as it is true now.  Next, with the U.S.’s relative decline, it is not in a position to dictate to other countries whom they should or shouldn’t befriend, particularly when those countries are aspirant future powers.  If New Delhi continues to improve ties with China, so does the U.S.; it is the reality of the world we live in.

Now, India has dithered in the recent past on ties with the U.S., and those of us hoping for better bilateral relations have called on New Delhi to do its share of heavy-lifting too, and not just issue a litany of demands to the U.S. with a sense of entitlement, as is sometimes its wont.  But let’s also be clear that the reason why India and the U.S. ought to forge better ties with each other is because they share the same fundamental ideals about the global order, and not because one can be used as leverage against a third power.

In the end, DC’s nonproliferation ayatollahs are stuck in a time and place far removed from the present.  The nonproliferation order requires a major overhaul if it is to be relevant in the world today.  What does it say about the NPT’s value and enforceability in the world today, when a sitting NWS member scoffed at established rules and provided nuclear technology to anyone willing to pay, without any repercussions?

The Good Ol’ Boys Club of 1968 is dead.  If Nuclear Weapons States were really concerned about nonproliferation, they would bring India in as a member nuclear weapons state.  This requires structural reform, and unless the regime is reformed to reflect the realities of the 21st century, it will continue to grow less relevant with each passing day, as will its cheerleaders.

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4 Responses to Nuclear nonproliferation ayatollahs

  1. Rohan Joshi (@filter_c) July 1, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    On my blog, a riposte to Dr Krepon’s blogpost. Nuclear nonproliferation ayatollahs: The Good Ol’ Boys Club is dead. http://j.mp/jtQyYR

  2. Nitin Pai (@Acorn) (@Acorn) July 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    RT @filter_c: A riposte to Dr Krepon’s blogpost. Nuclear nonproliferation ayatollahs: The Good Ol’ Boys Club is dead. http://t.co/Nzb0Snh

  3. That good man @filter_c on Nuclear nonproliferation ayatollahs. The Good Ol’ Boys Club of 1968 is dead. Move on. http://bit.ly/jG4EXy

  4. Rohan Joshi (@filter_c) April 29, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    @jamiewalsh_ie If I may put it this way… http://t.co/d9fFOrcm || http://t.co/cggeDiVy

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