India – USA nuclear deal, support
Should the deal on nuclear cooperation between India and the USA be supported by the new US administration? Is it worthy of international acceptance and support?
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This deal recognises a strategic partnership between India and the United States, two of the world’s...
This deal recognises a strategic partnership between India and the United States, two of the world’s largest democracies. Both are wary of a more powerful and assertive China and they share interests in the war on terror, so there are clear benefits to the USA from a closer relationship. For India, traditionally suspicious of America, the deal is powerful recognition of its status as a leading world power. It can also be seen as a victory over its regional rival Pakistan, also nuclear-armed, which has been denied a similar agreement despite being a long-standing US ally. All this means that India is unprecedently well-disposed towards America; this could rapidly change into bitterness and perhaps hostility should a new US administration betray it by unilaterally breaking the treaty.
There is little strategic benefit to either side in this deal. Although they are both powerful democracies, India and the United States have quite different values and foreign policy priorities. India has a proud history of leading the non-aligned movement, which it is not going to give up just because of this deal. Nor will it necessarily choose the American side in any confrontation with China (India’s biggest trade partner) or Russia. The two countries also differ seriously on how to treat Myanmar, Pakistan and Iran. India’s proud independence from US policy was clear at the Doha round of WTO talks, where it held out under great pressure to prevent a deal it judged to be unfavourable. Nor should it be assumed that the deal could be overturned only from the American side; there are deep divisions in India’s unpredictable politics with many leading politicians still hostile to the agreement.
This deal is good for India’s development, offering it the opportunity to generate electricity from ...
This deal is good for India’s development, offering it the opportunity to generate electricity from nuclear energy on a much greater scale. India has very little uranium of its own, so the 34-year export ban, together with sanctions preventing access to modern nuclear technologies, has prevented it from expanding its small civilian nuclear energy industry. This has made India dependent on expensive oil and gas imports and the burning of very polluting domestic coal, while shortages of power have held the country’s development back significantly. In future India will have access to more diverse energy sources, and sufficient power for its rapidly modernising economy in the drive to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. It will also have the ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions - good for both India and the whole planet.
In reality, the India-US nuclear deal is unlikely to have much impact on India’s development. Nuclear power remains uneconomic in most countries, with very few new power stations built in the developed world in the last 20 years. Its other, well-known drawbacks (health concerns, dangers of catastrophic accidents, how to dispose of nuclear waste, securing radioactive material against terrorists, etc) make it unlikely that nuclear power stations will be built in fiercely democratic India. Even the optimistic Indian government aspirations only suggest that nuclear power will rise to 25% of India’s energy supply by far-off 2050, while foreseeing much more expansion of coal and gas-fired generation.
The India-US deal will make the world safer by bringing India within the global non-proliferation ca...
The India-US deal will make the world safer by bringing India within the global non-proliferation cause. Although it has not yet signed the NPT and CTBT, its agreements with America, the IAEA and the NSG should be seen as the first step towards India becoming a full part of the responsible nuclear community. Prime Minister Singh has indicated that India will not test nuclear weapons again and it is widely accepted that India, unlike some other nuclear states, has not profited by spreading nuclear technology to dangerous regimes. By signing the agreement, India commits itself for the first time to separate its civilian from its military nuclear industry, placing it under international inspection and safeguards as other nuclear states do. Its good intentions have also been demonstrated recently by its willingness at the United Nations to put pressure on Iran over its undeclared nuclear programmes. Given that nothing the world could do would persuade India to give up its nuclear weapons, this deal is the best way to engage it in nuclear cooperation.
This deal will only serve to boost India’s military nuclear weapons programme. Many dual-use technologies, of use both to civilian nuclear energy and military nuclear weapons programmes, were once denied to India by international sanctions. Such technologies will now be available to India and will benefit her militarily. Just as significant will be the additional supplies of radioactive materials; India has very little uranium of its own, and having to share this between peaceful and warlike purposes has prevented it building more than a small number of bombs. Although new imports under the deal are meant to be just for civilian reactors, in practice leakage to the military programme will be very hard to prevent, partly because India’s agreement with the IAEA only opens up a few of its civilian nuclear sites to inspection. In any case, India will now be able to devote all of its own supplies to military demands for the first time.
The India-US deal advances the cause of nuclear non-proliferation internationally. Far from setting...
The India-US deal advances the cause of nuclear non-proliferation internationally. Far from setting a general precedent to countries like Iran, the agreement’s slow and careful negotiation after 34 years of isolation shows that nuclear acceptance is not easily won. In fact, it rewards responsible action by a stable democracy, which is surely a positive message to send to other countries.
This deal sets back the international non-proliferation cause very seriously. Not only does it reward India with special treatment, despite its refusal to sign either the CTBT or the NPT, it is also a slap in the face for many other countries which have played by the rules in the past. Countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Brazil may now feel that they should reconsider abstaining from nuclear weapons, while others like Iran, North Korea and Syria will be strengthened in their pursuit of them. The agreement also weakens the IAEA and NSG, which gave into American pressure to grant waivers to India and will now be seen as essentially toothless watchdogs of the non-proliferation cause.
This deal is good for peace in Asia. Nuclear weapons successfully kept the peace between East and W...
This deal is good for peace in Asia. Nuclear weapons successfully kept the peace between East and West for over forty years in the Cold War, due to the acceptance on both sides of the concept of deterrence and the fear that any conventional conflict could rapidly escalate into nuclear catastrophe. Are Asians somehow to be regarded as less able to cope with such concepts? After Pakistan, India and China all acquired nuclear weapons they have not fought conventional wars against each other; indeed, since both tested bombs in 1998 India and Pakistan have opened up much better lines of communication. Nuclear deterrents may also help these countries to develop, by removing the need for expensive conventional forces which take up much of their limited budgets.
This deal is bad for international tensions within Asia. It makes its easier for India to build more nuclear weapons while not exposing it to the full transparency of the NPT. Suspicious rivals such as Pakistan and China, with both of whom India has fought wars which have left unresolved border disputes, will react by seeking to increase their own nuclear stockpiles. Pakistan is already demanding equivalent treatment to India, and its ally China is unhappy about being outmanoeuvred by the USA in the NSG negotiations. A dangerous Asian arms race could result, drawing in other powers such as currently non-nuclear Japan and Taiwan. Given that some of these states are undemocratic and potentially unstable, this is a frightening prospect, made worse by the absence of the confidence-building measures such as direct lines of communication which helped to prevent Cold War tensions between East and West escalating into disaster.
This agreement is great news for American companies and workers, which can expect to profit from the...
This agreement is great news for American companies and workers, which can expect to profit from the sale of billions of dollars of nuclear fuel and technology to India. In return, India can expect much greater US investment in modernising and expanding its civilian nuclear industry, helping it to boost its economic and human development. Even if bilateral nuclear trade is limited, the wider cooperation this deal symbolises is good for both countries, helping Indian companies be seen as more welcome operators within the USA, and opening the way for sales of defence equipment, such as jet fighters, to America’s new strategic partner.
This deal is a strategic mistake which is unlikely even to bring profitable business to US companies. Given that US law will require immediate reimposition of sanctions should India test another nuclear bomb, India is likely to make sure it does not become dependent on the USA for nuclear supplies. Instead it will turn to countries such as Russia and France; both have been quick to strike recent nuclear trade deals with India, with fewer restrictions than America will still require. India has traditionally been a major defence customer of Russia, and this is likely to continue.
What do you think?