09
May

India's Brinkmanship in Nuclear Policy: The Fall Out Goes too Far!

Published in Hilal English May 2017

Written By: Tahir Mehmood Azad

Nuclear weapons are considered as the most horrifying and destructive weapons ever built by mankind and they have shed dark shadows over humanity since 1945. After United States' nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War, no [nuclear weapon] state could gather courage to use it again. However, it would be difficult to predict whether nuclear weapons could be used in future or not. Definitely, it is very complicated to state whether over the last 70 years, the threat of the use of nuclear weapons has reduced or amplified because there are both positive and perilous trends ongoing. A nuclear explosion would also create considerable fallout, potentially contaminating large areas. A one ton (a unit of weight equivalent to 1000 kilograms) surface detonation would theoretically result in fallout with gamma radiation levels in excess of 500 radiuses to a distance of 30-100 metres from the point of the explosion, with lesser amounts settling over a wider area.


It has become an Indian strategy to accuse Pakistan for any incident that happens in its territory. In the recent past, India has blamed Pakistan for attack on its Parliament (2002), Mumbai (2008) and Pathankot airbase (2015). Recently, for the attacks on its military base in Uri, Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), in which 17 Indian soldiers were killed, India accused Pakistan. In reaction, India threatened Pakistan for surgical strike on its territory. On September 29, 2016, Indian military officials claimed that India had carried out surgical strike on militant camps in Pakistani territory. Pakistan rejected India's claim of surgical strike and warned India of serious consequences to any such activity.


After every single terrorist incident in India, whether it is carried out by local terrorists or separatist organizations, Indian civil and political elite put blame on Pakistan. These tensions further lead to unhappy and unhealthy environment for both states which ultimately affect the South Asian region. It is a bitter reality that any type of military adventure such as surgical strike or limited war carried out by India would lead to full-scale war and that would ultimately lead to nuclear war.


Pakistan and India, with estimated combined numbers of 250 nuclear weapons (130 and 120 respectively)1 and roughly total amount 6.3 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU-235) and 5.26 tons plutonium (Pu-239) for military uses, remain on the verge of war. Any type of military adventure, either surgical or limited war waged by India, would escalate to full-scale war and ultimately to nuclear war. Both states have advanced nuclear weapons' technology and nuclear war between them could be more catastrophic and will have long lasting health, environmental, psychological, socio-economic and global consequences. More than 21 million people would die in minutes from the direct effects of the weapons.2 Entire population of Pakistan and India which is about 200 million and 1000 million respectively, would suffer from the radiations for many decades. All major cities on both sides would be annihilated completely. Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation would increase and that would negatively affect human, animal and plant life. Drinking water and food shortages would cause hundreds of millions of people to starve to death during the years following the nuclear war.


Neither the United States nor any other state in the world is distantly ready to handle the consequence of nuclear war. For example, the need to care for thousands of wounded, burned and irradiated sufferers, the need to vacate hundreds of thousands of natives in the path of the fallout, the enormous challenge of restoring essential services to a partly burned and irradiated city, and more. Further than the instantaneous physical harm done by a nuclear war, the sociological, psychological, and financial impacts of such an aggression would be destructive. Like natural calamity, a nuclear attack may happen without admonition, leaving small probability for preparation. An attack in a metropolitan part would not only execute huge figures of citizens but it could also make the region practically squalid for an extensive period of time. The suffering of such an assault would leave lasting mental and emotional scars on the survivors. The blast wave can destroy buildings, spread debris, and overturn trees. The thermal pulse can ignite exposed combustible materials, causing many sustained fires. These are the main direct effects. The magnitude of the effects is different depending on whether the explosion occurs; on the ground or above the earth.4 If a nuclear weapon was detonated at ground level, the area destroyed and the casualties probably would be smaller, even though ground particles would get picked up and made radioactive and then dumped downwind for hundreds of miles.5 Li Bin has given the consequences of nuclear terrorism attack in four scenarios.6


1. A nuclear device is exploded on the surface of water by seashore and the yield is 20 kilotons or less. The effects of a nuclear explosion include shock waves (or referred as air blasts for an explosion in the air), thermal radiation, initial nuclear radiation, and residual nuclear radiation.


2. A nuclear device is exploded at a population centre. The yield is about 20 kilotons. The damage in this scenario would be much bigger because the population density would be much higher. The casualties would be at the level of those in the Nagasaki and Hiroshima attacks or even larger.


3. An operational reactor releases a significant amount of vapourized nuclear materials, including spent fuels and fission products after suffering an attack. Nuclear materials released from an operational reactor are harmful to human beings. They could cause immediate effects in a few days, mid-term effects in a few years and long-term effects in tens of years. Immediate effects include acute radiation sickness caused by exposure to large-dose radiation, scalding by hot venting, and injuries by solid debris.


4. A "dirty bomb" with radioactive material is exploded at a population centre. The effects of the explosion of a "dirty bomb" are highly dependent on the type of nuclear materials used, the form of dispersal, and the weather condition after the explosion. Main effects would also be psychological and economical ones.7


International health organizations and experts believe that nuclear war consequences of India-Pakistan would be very dangerous to the affected community. A successful attack in major cities of both states would be very likely to cause large numbers of instant fatalities. Victims would be confronted not only with immediate destruction and disability imposed by the initial event but also with the fear of future effects on their own health, and the health of loved ones, or that of future generations.8 Although it would have the potential to affect extensive areas of land and cause large number of cancers, its impact would depend on how effectively appropriate contingency plans were implemented.9 Even an unsuccessful attack could have economic and social repercussions and affect public confidence in nuclear activities such as power generation.10


The entire region would face the consequences of radioactivity. Furthermore, it would have extra-regional impacts such as health, environmental, economic and trade, ecological, and socio-political. Therefore, India must avoid any kind of war option i.e., surgical, limited or all-out war. The bilateral disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner. Kashmir is the core dispute and it should be resolved as per the UNSC resolutions. Major powers should play their effective roles to normalize the situation between the two countries. India must change its aggressive policies towards Pakistan and both states should settle their issues in a friendly environment. India can escalate and initiate a war, but it will have to pay the price that would be very costly and endure over centuries!

 

The writer is pursuing PhD in Strategic & Nuclear Studies at National Defence University (NDU) Islamabad, Pakistan.
 

1 Shannon N. Kile and Hans M. Kristensen, "Trends in World Nuclear Forces, 2016," SIPRI, Fact Sheet, June 2016, p.2.
2 Abheet Singh Sethi, "The Global Cost of a Nuclear War between India and Pakistan," September 29, 2016.
3 Ashton B. Carter, Michael M. May, and William J. Perry, "The Day After: Action in the 24 Hours Following a Nuclear Blast in an American City," A report based on a workshop hosted by the Preventive Defense Project (Cambridge, Mass. and Palo Alto, Cal., Harvard and Stanford Universities, Preventive Defence Project, May 2007).
4 "Understanding the Risks and Realities of Nuclear Terrorism," Center for International Security and Cooperation Institute for International Studies, Stanford University.
5 Ibid.
6 Li Bin, "On Nuclear Terrorism," Working Paper, 2nd Pugwash Workshop on East Asian Security, Beijing, China, March 7-9, 2002.
7 http://nuclear-news.net/information/.
8 T. F. Ditzler, "Malevolent minds: The teleology of terrorism," in F. M. Moghaddam, and A. J. Marsella (Ed.), Understanding Terrorism: Psychosocial Roots, Consequences, and Interventions, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2001, pp. 187-188.
9 "Assessing The Risk of Terrorist Attacks on Nuclear Facilities," Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology London, U.K, POST Report 222, July 2004, p.2.
10 Ibid.

 
08
May

No First Use and India's Changing Nuclear Posture

Published in Hilal English May 2017

Written By: Ghazala Yasmin Jalil

The remarks of academics and retired Indian officials confirm the redundancy of the NFU. If indeed the signals coming from India are to be taken seriously then it is a major declared policy shift that has serious implications for Pakistan's nuclear strategy.

 

India has adopted an increasingly belligerent posture towards Pakistan in the last few years – suspension of composite dialogue, strained diplomatic relations and severed cultural ties, and calling Pakistan a terrorist state. At the same time, India has been heavily building up its conventional capabilities, tremendously expanding its naval capabilities and even operationalising its nuclear capable submarine fleet. The latest in India's race towards a more belligerent posture is its move away from a nuclear no-first use (NFU) posture. This is indeed a worrying development in an already volatile nuclear theatre like South Asia.

 

nofirstchange.jpgThe NFU refers to a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. India adopted the NFU policy in the wake of its 1998 nuclear tests. India's draft nuclear doctrine of August 1999 asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of "retaliation only". It further states, "India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail."1 Later, in a speech at the National Defence College on October 21, 2010, India's then National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, said that Indian nuclear doctrine advocates no first use against non-nuclear-weapon states. This raises the question whether the use of nuclear weapons was an option against non-nuclear weapon states. Again, in November 2016, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "Why do lots of people say that India is for no fist use? Why should I bind myself?"2


Recent claims by an expert on South Asian nuclear strategy, Vipin Narang, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology are worthy of some attention. At a conference held by Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in 2017, he said, "There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first." He asserted that India may abandon NFU and launch a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons or most likely the tactical nuclear weapons against it. He further claimed that India's pre-emptive strike may not be conventional and would also be aimed at Pakistan's missile launchers for tactical battlefield nuclear warheads. He went as far to say that India's strike may be a full 'comprehensive counterforce strike' that attempts to completely disarm Pakistan of all its nuclear weapons eliminating the possibility of a retaliatory strike. However, of greater concern is his claim that this change in thinking does not come from fringe extreme voices but from no less than a former Commander of India's Strategic Forces, Lt Gen B.S. Nagal, and also from the influential former national security adviser, Shivshankar Menon, who suggested in his 2016 book 'Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy', that "Serious voices, who cannot be ignored, seem to suggest that this (abandoning NFU policy) is where India may be heading, and certainly wants to head."


Pakistan has always been sceptical of India's claims of NFU. However, the remarks of academics and retired Indian officials confirm the redundancy of the NFU. If indeed the signals coming from India are to be taken seriously then it is a major declared policy shift that has serious implications for Pakistan's nuclear strategy. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Ehsan ul Haq (R), who has remained closely associated with Pakistan’s nuclear thinking while speaking at the launch of a book said, "The development is a cause of concern against the backdrop of extremist Hindutva agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party government." He further said, "Our conventional understanding of South Asia's nuclear dynamics and who, in fact, might use nuclear weapons first and in what mode may need a hard rethink given these emerging authoritative voices in India who are not content to cede the nuclear initiative to Pakistan." This indeed would be a major shift in India's nuclear policy. It would surely have a response by Pakistan making adjustments to its nuclear doctrine. However, if Vipin Narayan's remarks are to be taken seriously then it might not only be abandoning of NFU by India but doing away with the escalation ladder leading to a strategic nuclear strike. Noteworthy in this context are his remarks that India may conduct a comprehensive counterforce designed to destroy Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While this may not be possible in practice since Pakistan's nuclear assets are well dispersed with high survivability, it does reflect the extremist turn in India's nuclear thinking. This is a worrying development for Pakistan since India has adopted a more aggressive stance against Pakistan under the BJP-led government. It is also worrisome in the light of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) system that India is developing and is already claiming operational with the ability to protect two Indian cities. Although BMD systems are not foolproof and hundred percent effective, they would give Indian decision makers a false sense of security making them act with aggression in a crisis. If indeed Indian nuclear thinking is moving towards a pre-emptive nuclear strike, then the decision makers would feel more secure knowing the BMD system would provide protection against any missile that Pakistan launches in retaliation.

 

Noteworthy are Vipin Narayan’s remarks that India may conduct a comprehensive counterforce designed to destroy Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. While this may not be possible in practice since Pakistan's nuclear assets are well dispersed with high survivability, it does reflect the extremist turn in India's nuclear thinking.

Pakistan has already stated its displeasure on any notions of pre-emptive strike. On April 6, 2017, Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson stated that, “It goes without saying that the talk about pre-emption in a nuclearized South Asia is highly irresponsible and dangerous and will not help the cause of promoting strategic restraint and stability in the region.” He further highlighted that, “In taking appropriate security measures, Pakistan has to consider capabilities and not intentions which can change anytime."3


A move towards pre-emptive strike would be a dangerous and destabilising one in South Asia. It will surely accelerate the arms race in South Asia including nuclear. It might necessitate changes in force planning, postures, and deployment protocols. It would likely move the two countries towards nuclear readiness which also increases the chances of accidental and unauthorised use.


Some analysts have described the Indian references to pre-emptive strike "a storm in a teacup," and not to be taken seriously. It may be so. However, if Indian strategic circles are discussing the possibility of a crippling first strike against Pakistan, Islamabad cannot afford to take it lightly. It does not mean that Pakistani decision makers need to go off in a flurry and make adjustments to its force posture immediately. But it would be a good idea to keep a close watch on India's nuclear policy. In the long run, Pakistan would have to adjust its nuclear policy to cater for a first nuclear use Indian policy. Pakistan can use tactics like dispersion, camouflage and mobility to ensure the survivability of its nuclear arsenal. Moreover, Pakistan can develop sea-based nuclear capability which would give it an assured second strike capability. It is already working on a sea based nuclear deterrence. In January 2017 Pakistan announced that it had successfully carried out the first-ever test of its nuclear-capable Babur-3 submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) from a submerged platform. The Babur-3 SLCM is ultimately designed for use with its Agosta 90B diesel-electric submarines. This would give Pakistan a second strike capability. It would also ensure that all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not destroyed in a pre-emptive strike. An important lesson to take home is what the foreign office spokesperson said: "Pakistan has to prepare against the adversary's capabilities and not intentions." At the same time one must not miss the point – Indian talk of abandoning NFU is an indication of the extremist turn in the country's security and foreign policy. It is the harbinger of yet more conflict and instability in the region. Perhaps, the most important step Pakistan needs to take is to build international pressure on India to abandon its aggressive posture and move towards dialogue and conflict resolution. For nuclear weapons are not meant to be used to wage war, their primary role is to prevent war.

 

The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad and focuses on nuclear and arms control & disarmament issues.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

1 Draft Report of National Security Advisory Board on Indian Nuclear Doctrine, Äugust 17, 1999, http://mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?18916/Draft+Report+of+National+Security+Advisory+Board+on+Indian+Nuclear+Doctrine
2 "Why bind ourselves to 'no first use' policy, says Manohar Parrikar on India's nuke policy", Economic Times, November 12, 2017
3 "India’s no-first-use of N-doctrine a ploy: FO," The Nation, April 7, 2017, http://nation.com.pk/editors-picks/07-Apr-2017/india-s-no-first-use-of-n-doctrine-a-ploy-fo

11
July

NSG Membership: A Critical Affair

Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Pakistan and India have applied for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-nation body that governs trade in nuclear-related exports and aims to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military use. Both states realize that inclusion in the Group would not only enhance their prestige or status in the global politics but also legitimize their import and export of nuclear material for peaceful application.


The NSG was created as a voluntary cartel in 1975 on the behest of the United States. The cartel was established in response to India’s May 18, 1974, so-called peaceful nuclear explosion, “which was fuelled with plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor (CIRUS) in violation of peaceful nuclear use assurances.” Since entry into force in 1978, the NSG has been transferring nuclear material and technology to the parties of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), who are observing comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Neither India nor Pakistan is party to NPT and thereby both states do not qualify to be a member of NSG as well as recipient of nuclear material and technology from the Group. This rule, however, was evaded in 2008 to accommodate India. The NSG members made an amendment in the trade laws of the Group and granted a special waiver to India. The special treatment of India undermined the credibility of the Group.


Premier Narendra Modi has been lobbying with the support of the United States to enter into the NSG for pursuing India’s economic and strategic agenda. The membership of the Group would allow New Delhi to trade in nuclear material and technologies with the rest of the world. In the parlance of strategic alliance the membership would also eradicate the last remnants of ‘the pariah status that was imposed following the first nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1974, and reinforced after the Pokhran II tests in 1998.’ Aroon Purie opined that: “If the civil nuclear agreement between India and the U.S. in 2005 was the first step towards ending the ostracism, becoming a full member of the NSG would make India an integral part of the global nuclear club.”


Prime Minister Modi had toured many countries, including the United States; to muster support for India’s NSG membership application endorsement during the first half of June 2016. Presently, India enjoys President Obama’s strong support in its bid to join the Group. Notably, President Obama first expressed support for India’s membership in the NSG in November 2010 joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Since then, he has been lobbying for India to win membership through a special exception.


The trends in the international politics and debates on the nuclear non-proliferation regime indicate that India may not receive the special or exceptional treatment in securing the NSG membership. India’s application for the NSG membership and United States plea to treat it as a special case were vastly debated in the international media prior to the group meeting on June 9, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The debate confirms that special treatment of one state and discriminatory approach against the others would be perilous for NSG in particular and Nuclear Non-proliferation regime in general.


The Chinese principled stance i.e. only party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is qualified to be members of the NSG was a major roadblock which has hindered India from becoming an NSG member. Importantly, the 48 members of NSG have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, either as nuclear weapons states (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China) or as non-nuclear weapons states. Whereas; India is not party to the NPT. That’s why; in addition to China, a few other members of the Group including New Zealand, Turkey, South Africa, Austria, etc. also opposed the U.S. move to include India in the 48-nation NSG.


China has been keeping a firm stance on the subject of the NSG membership. On May 13, 2016, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lu Kang made a statement that “NPT membership” is a necessary qualification for membership. He added, “Not only India, but also many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG.” Many NSG members, including China, believe that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided based on consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the rules of procedure of the NSG. The recent reports reveal that China has shown flexibility on its stance by announcing that it is against an exception being granted to India and may favour a criteria-based approach to address the question of all non-NPT states being granted membership to NSG.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind foreign trips’ failure to ensure smooth entry of India in NSG is a big setback for his foreign policy agenda. Conversely, the denial of special treatment to India would contribute definitely in restoring the credibility of the NSG. Since 2008, India has been enjoying the exceptional treatment by the Group due to its cementing strategic partnership with the United States. “For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear program to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed a civilian nuclear deal with India that allowed it to trade in nuclear materials.” (The Editorial Board, “No Exceptions for a Nuclear India” The New York Times, June 4, 2016). Washington’s twisting of Nuclear Non-proliferation regimes rules/norms in favour of India has increased the fragility of the regime.


The credibility of Nuclear Non-proliferation regime tainted because India promised in 2008 to undertake certain measures in reciprocity of NSG waiver. Daryl G. Kimball pointed out that: “The NSG waiver for India was granted in return for several Indian non-proliferation “commitments and actions,” including maintaining its nuclear test moratorium, supporting negotiations to halt fissile material production for weapons, and developing a plan to separate its civilian and nuclear sectors.” (Arms Control Today, June 2016). The review of American think-tank reports discloses that New Delhi did not fully separate its civilian and military nuclear reactors. Neither observed moratorium on fissile material production for weapons use nor signed Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Moreover, it had not adhered to the limited International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol.


Although Obama administration has immensely been lobbying for India’s NSG membership, yet a few Congressmen at the Capitol Hill are expressing their serious reservations on India’s nuclear non-proliferation record. They seem disturbed due to New Delhi’s non-compliance of nuclear related commitments with Washington since the entry into force of Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal in 2008. For instance, Senator Markey statement in a U.S. Senate hearing on May 24, 2016, was revealing. He pointed out that: “since 2008 when (we) also gave them an exemption, India has continued to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons program virtually un-checked. At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of the nuclear arms race in South Asia.” The vertical nuclear proliferation in South Asia and absence of arms’ control between India and Pakistan endorse Senator Markey’s proclamation in the Senate of United States.


Pakistan formally applied for the NSG membership on May 18, 2016. Perhaps, Pakistan’s move to join NSG surprised both India and the United States. Since its bid for membership, Islamabad has been lobbying for the support of like-minded states. In this context, it also sent letters to the U.S. officials and lawmakers, urging them to support its bid for joining the NSG. Due to its visible tilt towards New Delhi, Washington asked Pakistan ‘to put its case before all 48 members of the Group, instead of seeking individual endorsements for joining the NSG’. The response of Washington to Islamabad reflect chill in bilateral relations.


Importantly, Pakistan instead of asking for favour or special treatment has maintained a principle stance on NSG membership. It is demanding a non-discriminatory approach. It accentuates that a criteria-based or norm-based approach ought to be adopted for the membership of NSG. More explicitly, Islamabad has been advocating that the norms and rules applied to give India membership should also apply to all new entrants to the NSG. Many members have appreciated Pakistan’s principle stance. Therefore, they have supported Islamabad’s attempt to become a member of the Group.


Without having a criteria-based approach, Pakistan would be permanently in a disadvantageous position. It is because NSG operates on the basis of consensus. Once India becomes the member of NSG, it would be in a position, as a member, to permanently block the entry of Pakistan in the Group by using the consensus clause. In simple words, it would veto the attempt of Pakistan to join the NSG.


Importantly, Islamabad’s application to join the Group not only subverted the smooth entry of India in the NSG with the support of the United States, but also created a legitimate right of Pakistan to be a member of the Group. It is because, “Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure and the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses.”


To conclude, both India and Pakistan have potential to assist many developing states to advance their nuclear infrastructure for the peaceful use of nuclear technology. Indeed, granting of the NSG membership to New Delhi and Islamabad would be in the interest of lesser-developed states. The trends, however, reveal that both states might not be successful in getting the membership of NSG in the near future.

 

The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The trends in the international politics and debates on the nuclear non-proliferation regime indicate that India may not receive the special or exceptional treatment in securing the NSG membership. India’s application for the NSG membership and United States plea to treat it as a special case were vastly debated in the international media prior to the group meeting on June 9, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The debate confirms that special treatment of one state and discriminatory approach against the others would be perilous for NSG in particular and Nuclear Non-proliferation regime in general.

*****

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s whirlwind foreign trips’ failure to ensure smooth entry of India in NSG is a big setback for his foreign policy agenda. Conversely, the denial of special treatment to India would contribute definitely in restoring the credibility of the NSG.

*****

 
11
July

The Nuclear Suppliers Group - Principles vs. Power Interests

Written By: Brian Cloughley

On May 12, 2016, Mr. Sartaj Aziz, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs, told the Senate, “even though the U.S. State Department has been consistently underlining the importance of good relations with Pakistan, there are broader geo-political issues which must be kept in view.” He spoke in the context of the negative attitude displayed by many members of the U.S. legislature concerning the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, but the government has obviously been examining all aspects of U.S.-Pakistan relations, especially in the light of the Washington-Delhi defence cum commercial nexus.


India is seeking membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which is “a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through implementation of two sets of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.” One of the NSG’s main stipulations, adopted in 1994, is that any supplier of nuclear-associated material or technology “authorises a transfer only when satisfied that the transfer would not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”


It could not be clearer that this international agreement forbids provision of nuclear expertise or material to a country that has not ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which the U.S. State Department describes as “the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime.”

 

theneuclera.jpgBut even cornerstones can be undermined, and that process began when President George W. Bush started negotiations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005 to produce a U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement. It took considerable effort by both sides to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement whereby India would have access to nuclear material and technology consistent with the primary U.S. aim of entry to the potentially large Indian market for nuclear power stations. The commercially-based Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of India concerning Peaceful uses of Nuclear Energy of August 2007 is known as the 123 Agreement because it was necessary to amend Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act 1954 which governs ‘Cooperation with Other Nations.’ India declined to abide by the Act’s specification that “non-nuclear-weapon states [e.g. India] partners [which India has now become] must have full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, essentially covering all major nuclear facilities,” because this would involve inspection of defence-related establishments.


The modified Act seemed to clear the way for nuclear collaboration on a major scale, but in spite of seemingly generous terms in the Cooperation Agreement there has been no involvement by U.S. nuclear plant manufacturers, mainly because they do not want to be held financially responsible for a nuclear accident at a power station which they designed or built.


It is accepted worldwide that national nuclear plant operators are accountable in the event of accidents, but India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, and Rule 24 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules, 2011, provide for the right of recourse, pursuit of which would involve foreign enterprises, be they suppliers or operators, being held liable for damages. In spite of lobbying by U.S. President Obama during his visit to India in 2015, which was much praised as having achieved a “breakthrough” in removing the liability barriers which India’s parliament strongly supported, there has been no radical change that would encourage U.S. firms to seek major contracts. (The Westinghouse Electric Company, generally thought to be American, which is negotiating to build six nuclear plants in India, has been owned by Japan’s Toshiba since 2006.)


In February 2015 India’s Ministry of External Affairs stated that the Civil Liability Act “channels all legal liability for nuclear damage exclusively to the operator” — but Clause 17 of the Act specifies that operators are permitted to seek financial recourse from suppliers after paying compensation for “patent or latent defects or sub-standard services,” which are, naturally, open to legal interpretation in the event of a disaster.


It is notable that on May 19, 2016 it was reported in the U.S. that after a 26-year legal battle 15,000 homeowners in Colorado had succeeded in obtaining a $375 million settlement because plutonium leakage from a nuclear weapons plant had adversely affected their health and devalued their property. Rockwell International Corporation and Dow Chemical Company “agreed” to pay the money after fighting the lawsuit for over a quarter of a century. The media noted that “after a $7 billion clean-up that took 10 years . . . the most heavily contaminated area remains off-limits to the public” which is no doubt being borne in mind by India’s legislators who have not forgotten the 1984 disaster at the Union Carbide pesticide plant at Bhopal that killed and maimed many thousands of people. (Dow Chemical now owns Union Carbide. In 2012 it was revealed that Dow had engaged the intelligence company Stratfor to obtain information about the personal lives of activists engaged in seeking redress for negligence.)


While there have as yet been no commercial benefits to the U.S. from its nuclear agreement with India, there have been other effects, including some that are less than desirable in the context of “proliferation of nuclear weapons” which is condemned by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


The Arms Control Association states that “In September 2008, in a move led by the United States, the Nuclear Suppliers Group eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by the group members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods, such as reactors and fuel, to non-NPT countries.” Before this ‘easing’ of international constraints, India had been unable to import uranium and was therefore entirely reliant on its own mines, which although producing only low-grade ore are extensive and in the long term capable of providing fuel to any number of nuclear facilities, civilian and military.


As a result of annulment of the international stipulation requiring its adherence to the NPT before being permitted to import nuclear fuel and technology, India negotiated nuclear cooperation arrangements with eleven nations, including the holder of the world’s largest uranium deposits, Australia, whose government’s 1977 Uranium Export Policy had specified that “customer countries must at a minimum be a party to the NPT and have concluded a full-scope safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.” But profit beats morality, and, as noted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, “Australia was the last domino to fall when it created an exception for India to its export policies in December 2011.” The agreement was tied up in November 2015 and a parliamentary committee noted that it could increase export revenues by $1.7 billion. (Canada’s current uranium contract is valued at $350 million; there is little public information concerning financial arrangements with other suppliers.)


Countries involved in nuclear cooperation with India are expected to observe similar rules to those of Australia which specifies that its uranium “may only be exported for peaceful non-explosive purposes,” and it is almost impossible that any foreign-supplied uranium could be used to produce nuclear weapons. These are manufactured at installations using India’s abundant indigenous ore which is no longer needed to fuel civilian nuclear power stations.


Following the U.S.-India 123 Agreement the President of the Federation of American Scientists, Charles D. Ferguson, wrote in Arms Control Today that, “by granting India access to uranium, the deal allows India to divert its indigenously-mined uranium to military applications without detracting fuel from the civilian program” — and that is the crux of the entire affair.


The Nuclear Suppliers Group, at the urging of the United States, approved a measure that encourages India to produce nuclear weapons more economically. The “cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime” has been dealt a massive blow. Although the U.S. Hyde Act of 2006 governing U.S.-India nuclear cooperation requires, inter alia, that the President must inform Congress of non-compliance with “the provision of nuclear fuel in such a manner as to facilitate the increased production by India of highly enriched uranium or plutonium in unsafeguarded nuclear facilities”, it is impossible for the U.S. to certify publicly that this is not taking place because there is no provision for on-site verification.


India regards membership of the NSG as a major foreign policy goal, and the U.S. support for its ambition was indicated in a joint statement on January 27, 2015, by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi which “committed [them] to continue to work towards India’s phased entry” in to the Group.


There are 48 nations in the NSG, and their attitude to accession by India varies from most supportive (U.S., France, UK, Australia) vis the majority who are fence-sitting and non-committal, to those opposed which include Ireland, Sweden, Pakistan and China.


Pakistan’s application for accession, officially submitted on May 18, 2016, notes that the NSG needs to “adopt a non-discriminatory criteria-based approach for NSG membership of the countries that have never been party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” It is considered, however, that this was more a record of protest than a reasoned bid to join an organisation whose amendment of basic principle to permit international supply of uranium to India was an indication of ethical flexibility.

 

theneuclera1.jpgOn May 13, 2015, the U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked about India’s bid to join the NSG and he replied, “I’d point you back to what the President said during his visit to India in 2015, where he reaffirmed that the U.S. view was that India meets missile technology control regime requirements and is ready for NSG membership.”


The U.S. has made it clear that it will continue to support India’s efforts to achieve its objective, and that it will attempt to influence NSG members accordingly, as it did before succeeding in having them exempt India from the condition that there must be no nuclear cooperation with countries that have not acceded to the NPT. It is not surprising, therefore, that Mr. Sartaj Aziz observed that in Pakistan-U.S. relations there are “broader geo-political issues which must be kept in view.”

 

The writer is a France based retired officer of Australian Army and is an expert on South Asian affairs. He is also author of various books, and contributes extensively in international media.

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Following the U.S.-India 123 Agreement the President of the Federation of American Scientists, Charles D. Ferguson, wrote in Arms Control Today that, “by granting India access to uranium, the deal allows India to divert its indigenously-mined uranium to military applications without detracting fuel from the civilian program” — and that is the crux of the entire affair.

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While there have as yet been no commercial benefits to the U.S. from its nuclear agreement with India, there have been other effects, including some that are less than desirable in the context of “proliferation of nuclear weapons” which is condemned by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
 

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