At a minimum, India should be required to make three basic commitments in order to qualify for civilian nuclear co-operation: a freeze on testing until the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty includes a permanent ban; a verifiable freeze on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes until a Fissile Materials Treaty includes a permanent ban; and formal acceptance of the disarmament obligations in Article VI of the NPT.
So the on-again, off-again U.S.-India civilian nuclear co-operation deal is back on, although just barely. Tuesday, after a raucous two-day debate complete with cash-for-votes charges, the Indian Parliament voted confidence in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government and the nuclear deal on which he staked his administration.
The deal is intended to lift the prohibitions on civilian nuclear trade with India that were imposed after the country's warhead tests in 1974 and 1998. Arms control critics of the deal hoped it would ultimately fade away in the face of strong opposition within India itself — opposition based not on proliferation concerns but on the fear that it would tie New Delhi's foreign policy too closely to Washington's. But now, with parliamentary endorsement, the deal moves on to face two multilateral tests.
In early August, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency will consider, and now likely approve, a new safeguards agreement with India that will cover civilian nuclear facilities to be newly designated as such under the deal.
The key test may come in September at the Nuclear Suppliers Group, where Canada and 44 other members will be asked to exempt India from a foundational non-proliferation rule that precludes civilian nuclear co-operation with any state that does not adhere to full-scope safeguards. India fails the full-scope safeguards test because some of its nuclear facilities are not and will not be safeguarded — namely, those reserved for its weapons program.
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