Most folks missed it, because the vote came just before the bailout bill, but on Wednesday the US Senate voted 86-13 to approve the India 123 bill, giving India access to US nuclear know-how and materials for the first time since India conducted a nuclear weapons test three decades ago. Both presidential candidates voted for the bill and the House had already passed it 298 to 117. The roll call for the Senate vote shows that Boxer, Byrd, Feingold, Leahy and Sanders were among the few "Nay" votes.
Arms control experts aren't at all happy with the deal:
Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, blasted the deal as a "nonproliferation disaster." India, along with Pakistan and Israel, has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998, despite international outrage, and continues to produce fissile material. Kimball said the deal "does not bring India into the nonproliferation mainstream" because it "creates a country-specific exemption from core nonproliferation standards that the United States has spent decades to establish."
But Bush is:
The President said he is looking forward to signing the Bill, considered as a major foreign policy initiative of his Administration, into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India Strategic Partnership.
"I congratulate the Senate on passing the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act, H.R. 7081," he said.
"In particular, I commend the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for their leadership in crafting this important bipartisan legislation," he said.
The President also thanked Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader McConnell for bringing this bill to a vote prior to the Senate's adjournment.
One of the major stumbling blocks had been that the bill contains no specific wording to cease co-operation if India goes back to nuclear testing, on which it currently has a self-imposed moratorium. The Bush administration refused to add any such wording to an all-important waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group which it heavily pressured other nations to pass, and an amendment to the US bill that would have made it explicit failed to pass.
Critics also point out that India's military nuclear facilities would notbe subject to inspection - only 14 of its 22 existing or planned reactors would come under regular IAEA surveillance - and note that being able to buy US uranium for its civilian reactors would allow India to redirect more of it's own nuclear material to bomb production. They also note, not that anyone on the Hill is listening, that India could have sidestepped all of this rigmarole by joining the NPT and giving up its nukes. Once upon a time, the US backed that provision of the NPT fully. No longer, exceptions are now the name of the game (see Iran and the hyperbolic saber-rattling over what so far has only been shown to be a purely civilian program).
As Jeffrey Lewis, Director of Nuclear Strategy at the New America Foundation, writes: "carving out an exception for India undermines the rule of law and allows India to use the international marketplace to mitigate the effect of any sanctions following a resumption of nuclear testing." He also says:
I worry this sets up a potential trainwreck:
Indian officials believe they have what they seek: the legal commitments at the core of a strategy that will mitigate the consequences of a resumption of testing. (The fuel reserve, access to the international marketplace, etc.)
NSG members, on the other hand, believe they have a political commitment, however weak, from India to refrain from testing and options to isolate India again in the event that it violates the pledge. [So do members of Congress now - C]
One of the two parties is wrong. I am not eager to find out which.
At the time of the NSG waiver, Mira Kamdar, a fellow at the Asia Society, wrote scathingly in the Washington Post:
The deal risks triggering a new arms race in Asia: If it passes, a miffed and unstable Pakistan will seek nuclear parity with India, and China will fume at a transparent U.S. ploy to balance Beijing's rise by building up India as a counterweight next door. The pact will gut global efforts to contain the spread of nuclear materials and encourage other countries to flout the NPT that India is now being rewarded for failing to sign. The U.S.-India deal will divert billions of dollars away from India's real development needs in sustainable agriculture, education, health care, housing, sanitation and roads. It will also distract India from developing clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and from reducing emissions from its many coal plants. Instead, the pact will focus the nation's efforts on an energy source that will, under the rosiest of projections, contribute a mere 8 percent of India's total energy needs -- and won't even do that until 2030.
So what will the deal accomplish? It will generate billions of dollars in lucrative contracts for the corporate members of the U.S.-India Business Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry. The Bush administration hopes that it will help resuscitate the moribund U.S. nuclear power industry and expand the use of this "non-polluting" source of energy, one of the pillars of the Bush team's energy policy. The deal will let the real leaders of the global nuclear-power business -- France and Russia, both of which eagerly support the deal -- reap huge profits in India. And the pact will provide spectacularly profitable opportunities to India's leading corporations, which are slavering to get their hands on a share of the booty. How much booty? This newspaper estimates more than $100 billion in business over the next 20 years, as well as perhaps tens of thousands of jobs in India and the United States.
This is what the U.S.-India nuclear deal is really all about. This is what the nonproliferation regime that has kept the world safe from nuclear Armageddon for decades is being risked for: cash.
... the deal will tell other would-be nuclear powers -- and nuclear rogues -- that the old barriers to nonproliferation need not be taken seriously. They certainly have not been taken seriously by the United States.
Interestingly, almost immediately after the NSG waiver was granted, Pakistan announced that it would be buying state-of-the-art enrichment and seperation technology from China. Pakistan, historically, has been the proliferator of choice for those wishing to build nuclear programs outwith IAEA and NPT supervision.
The House and Senate have just made a serious mistake by following the Bush administration, energy and defense lobbyists on this so enthusiastically. The NPT is effectively dead - as the neocons have wished for all along. What comes next?