Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Explain again how India's nukes are unique. Canada decides not to "step up."

According to Anil Kakodkar, the Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission, his country has already harmonized its export control requirements with that of Nuclear Suppliers Group. All India wants now is a clean and unconditional waiver. Out of the penalty box indeed.

"NSG guidelines require comprehensive safeguards applicable only to NPT countries and since India has both civil and military programmes [and has not signed the NPT and doesn't propose to], we have a unique position.

"Therefore, such comprehensive safeguards are not relevant to India. Therefore clean exemption is what we are seeking," Kakodkar said, adding, "NSG should exempt India from the requirement of comprehensive safeguards and add no other conditions."

A special meeting of the NSG is scheduled for August 21.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors has already cut a special set of rules that applies only to India.

"Conditions will only take away from one hand what has been given from the other," he said.

Indian columnist Shobori Ganguli argues that

"India has already committed itself to the non-proliferation regime de facto through the 123 Agreement which is bound by the Hyde Act and the IAEA safeguards bound by the Additional Protocol. Both these documents are clear that nuclear cooperation would cease between India and the US as also with other countries if non-proliferation norms are violated."

India's Economic Times sees a "gang" of countries standing between India and a "clean" NSG waiver and describes this opposition as "temper tantrums" by the countries involved.

Japan, for instance, may insist on India acceding to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, steps also proposed by Ernie Regehr at the Canadian NGO Project Ploughshares though NGOs are no part of the Nuclear Supplier Group. Indications from the earlier negotiations at the IAEA are that Ireland and Austria want similar commitments to the NPT and the CTBT.

According to Ganguli, "New Delhi is comfortable as long as this remains a "request". Were it to become a "condition" for an NSG waiver, the Manmohan Singh Government could well face some discomfort." She believes that Japan will ultimately agree, having as big an economic interest in nuclear trade with India as anyone else.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington, DC-based Arms Control Association, told India Abroad that India's desire for a "clear waiver" was "a fantasy." Kimball believes that "the NSG countries are going to insist upon some commonsense restrictions on nuclear trade with India and conditions that are roughly similar to the major requirements set forth in the Hyde Act."

Kimball names Austria, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland among those who have "qualms." Canada is not on that list.

Last November a Canadian Foreign Affairs Departmental Performance report said, "If the Nuclear Suppliers Group agrees to exempt India from it's guidelines, Canada will pursue nuclear co-operation with India, which would provide substantial commercial opportunities for Canada." (Embassy Aug 6 08)

Kam Rathee, president and executive director of Canada-India Business Council, finds the fault with Canada, not India. Referring to the Harper government's secrecy about its position, Rathee says if Canada does vote against the lifting of nuclear exemptions, relations with India will be irrevocably damaged.

"It's like an engagement which will not turn into marriage if we don't work with India on this one. We need to show our good faith in this," he said

However, Kimball finds the Indian press "very accommodating to the official stand of the government." He explains in some detail why the NSG is unlikely to come to a final decision in time for the US Congress to act before elections in November. Read the whole interview here =>

Ironically, the Nuclear Suppliers Group was established in 1974 following India's surprise detonation of a nuclear explosive on May 18 as part of the Atoms for Peace program. The test gave the lie to the illusion long held by and actively promoted by many in the nuclear establishment that that nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could not be used for warlike purposes.

It is believed that India began work on a thermonuclear device in the 1980s and after not testing for 24 years, resumed tests of devices including thermonuclear devices in April 1998, after Pakistan's test-firing of its Ghauri missile.

What makes India unique is the particular style of sophistry that has been used to cover for its nuclear program. What is not unique is the opportunity that one and all see as just about the only salvation for the failing global economy. Like the arms trade, nuclear traffic occurs between states and large corporations well beyond the influence of normal market forces or democratic processes. Recommend this Post

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