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Experts Call on Congress to Take Harder Look at U.S.-India Nuclear Deal: House Member Pledges to Pursue Their Questions

For Immediate Release: November 23, 2005


Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Association (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.): A bipartisan group of 16 former U.S. government officials and experts with vast experience in security, energy, and nonproliferation matters have called upon members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate to “critically examine” a U.S.-Indian proposal to allow for “full” U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation. The experts’ letter urges Congress to “consider the full implications of the proposed agreement … and pursue additional stipulations that might result in a positive outcome to U.S. and international security.”

In their November 18 joint letter to Congress, the authors state that: “We believe that the United States and India can and should expand their ties and common interests as free democracies through expanded cooperation in trade and human development, scientific and medical research, energy technology, humanitarian relief, and military-to-military contacts.”

“Building upon the already strong U.S.-Indian partnership is an important goal, and we remain convinced that it can be achieved without undermining the U.S. leadership efforts to prevent the proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” the experts write.

“Unfortunately,” the experts write, “the proposal for civil nuclear cooperation with India poses far-reaching and potentially adverse implications for U.S. nuclear nonproliferation objectives and promises to do little in the long-run to bring India into closer alignment with other U.S. strategic objectives.”

“On balance, India’s commitments under the current terms of the proposed arrangement do not justify making far-reaching exceptions to U.S. law and international nonproliferation norms,” the letter concludes.

The deal, which was unveiled July 18, 2005 by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh, calls for require significant changes to U.S. nonproliferation laws and longstanding international nonproliferation policy that bar civil nuclear cooperation with states that are not members of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or do not allow for full-scope international safeguards to prevent diversion for military purposes.

So far, India has pledged to accept only voluntary international atomic energy agency safeguards over “civilian” nuclear facilities of its choosing. The experts note in their letter that “This could allow India to withdraw any nuclear facility from IAEA safeguards for national security reasons. Such an arrangement would be purely symbolic and would do nothing to prevent the continued production of fissile material for weapons by India.”

They also state that “The supply of nuclear fuel to India would free-up its existing stockpile and capacity to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. To help ensure that U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation is not in any way advancing India’s weapons program, it would be essential to apply permanent, facility-specific safeguards on a mutually agreed and broad list of current and future Indian nuclear facilities involved in civilian activities and electricity production in combination with a cutoff of Indian fissile material production for weapons.”

The authors suggest that “key details needed to help the Congress fully understand the implications of the proposal, in our view, have not yet been provided. Accordingly, we urge that before any action is taken on any legislation sent up by the administration to implement the proposal, Congress should obtain detailed answers to a number of questions,” which the experts include with the letter.

Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said: "This letter raises very serious questions about the advisability of moving forward with President Bush's proposed nuclear deal with India.  Congress needs to very carefully weigh the concerns that these respected arms control experts have raised about the adverse consequences of the India deal for America's long-term nuclear nonproliferation goals."

To date there have been two House International Relations Committee Hearings and one Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the proposal. Earlier this month, senior Bush administration officials responded to criticism of the proposal by stating that India must produce a plan for the separation of its “civilian” and its “military” nuclear facilities and that the safeguards that would apply must be “meaningful from a nonproliferation standpoint.” After India produces such a plan, the administration has said it will forward specific proposals to change U.S. nonproliferation laws to the Congress.

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The full text of the November 18 experts’ letter is available at <www.armscontrol.org>.


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