US deal said to let India expand nuclear arms
By Carol Giacomo
-- -- A landmark new U.S.-India nuclear
agreement would enable New Delhi to expand atomic weapons
production and encourage Pakistan and China to do likewise,
according to critics of the controversial deal.
In analyses to be made public on Wednesday, non-proliferation
experts expressed grave concerns about a proposed "separation"
plan that would open India's civil nuclear facilities to U.N.
inspections, while permitting military facilities to remain
The plan is central to whether the U.S.-India nuclear deal,
agreed last July, goes forward. U.S. business leaders say the
deal could open the door to billions of dollars in non-nuclear
and civilian nuclear-related contracts while government
officials say the agreement commits India to play a larger role
in halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
But the two governments are at odds over details, and it is
unclear if they can reach agreement before President George W.
Bush visits New Delhi in early March.
But even if the Bush administration deemed the plan credible and
all civilian facilities were placed under permanent
international monitoring, the sale of U.S. and other foreign
fuel to India "would still free-up India's existing capacity to
produce plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons and
allow for the rapid expansion of India's nuclear arsenal," the
experts said in a memo to the U.S. Congress obtained by Reuters.
"A sober analysis reveals the non-proliferation benefits of the
original proposal are overstated and the damage to the
non-proliferation regime is potentially high," said the memo,
prepared by Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association and
For 30 years, the United States led the effort to deny India
nuclear technology because it tested and developed nuclear
weapons in contravention of international norms. Both India and
its neighbor and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan have refused to
sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
But Bush now views India, a rising democratic and economic power
on China's border, as an evolving U.S. ally and the new nuclear
deal -- allowing India to purchase nuclear reactors and fuel --
is central to that vision.
Kimball told Reuters on Tuesday he believed the deal may "fall
apart" over the separation plan because India wants to exclude a
large number of civilian facilities and spent fuel from
The plan aims to ensure U.S. nuclear technology is never used
for military purposes and in theory would make civilian
facilities less susceptible to proliferation.
But if India buys U.S. and other foreign nuclear fuel and
continues to expand its nuclear arsenal, this would force
Pakistan to increase its arsenal and encourage China to continue
modernizing, Kimball said.
Leonard Weiss, a chief architect of the Nuclear
Non-proliferation Act of 1978 when he was staff director of the
Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs from 1977 to 1999, said
in his analysis that if the deal enables India to ramp up its
weapons production, this was a violation of U.S. obligations
under the NPT, the bedrock arms control pact.
Weiss, Kimball and other experts told Congress that 11 operating
power reactors in India may have produced as much as 9,000
kilograms of plutonium, which could be processed to make 1,000
India has an estimated 50 nuclear weapons now and a goal of
300-400 weapons in a decade, the experts said.
The administration has been worried about the nuclear deal's
fate, but a senior official told Reuters late on Tuesday he is
more optimistic than he was two weeks ago.
Aiming to move away from the controversy and set a positive tone
for Bush's visit, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is
expected to address Parliament on relations with the United
States on February 20 and Bush two days later will make a speech
to the Asia Society with a focus on India, U.S. and other
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