For Immediate Release: February 14, 2008
Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107
(Washington, D.C.) Responding to a question from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) at a hearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she would support an India-specific exemption from the international nuclear trading guidelines of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that is “completely consistent” with the conditions and restrictions established in a 2006 law approved by Congress.
The law, known as the Henry J. Hyde Act, would grant the U.S. president limited and conditional authority to waive the longstanding U.S. legal restrictions on nuclear trade with India, which has tested nuclear weapons, has not joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and does not allow comprehensive international nuclear safeguards.
“Rice’s pledge to support NSG guidelines that are consistent with the minimal but vital conditions established for U.S. nuclear trade with India requires a shift in the Bush administration’s policy. Such a shift would be an overdue step in the right direction,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association (ACA).
“At present, India is seeking an NSG exemption without conditions. The current draft U.S. proposal at the NSG supports India’s demand and, if adopted, would mean that other NSG states do not have to adhere to the same restrictions and conditions on nuclear trade with India that apply to the United States,” Kimball said. The March 2006 U.S. pre-decisional draft proposal for exempting India from NSG trade guidelines is available from www.armscontrol.org/projects/India/20060327_DraftNSGProposal.asp
“We expect that Secretary Rice will remain faithful to her pledge to Congress and adjust the U.S. approach at the NSG so that other states’ terms of trade with India must meet the same standards established in U.S. law and policy,” Kimball said.
The NSG was established in response to India’s 1974 nuclear test explosion, which utilized plutonium harvested from a foreign-supplied reactor in violation of peaceful nuclear use agreements with the United States and Canada.
“In response to Rice’s comments, we expect the member states of the NSG to insist that any decision to modify their rules on nuclear trade with India should explicitly prohibit the transfer of sensitive uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, or heavy water production equipment or technology. NSG states should also stipulate that any exemption from NSG trade guidelines that might be granted to India would be revoked if that nation resumes nuclear testing,” Kimball suggested.
The Hyde Act establishes several common sense restrictions and conditions on nuclear trade with India, including:
• The immediate termination of all NSG trade with India if New Delhi resumes nuclear testing or violates its safeguards commitments. India, which has not signed the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, is seeking terms that would allow continued nuclear trade even if India resumes testing.
• A requirement that the IAEA-India safeguards agreement applies in perpetuity to all nuclear materials, equipment, and technology and all civilian nuclear facilities in India. New Delhi is seeking an unprecedented “Indian-specific” safeguards agreement that would allow it to remove certain reactors from safeguards if fuel supplies are interrupted, even if that is because it resumes testing.
• A clear prohibition on the transfer of enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy water production technology to India. IAEA safeguards cannot prevent India from using knowledge gained from the importation of these sensitive technologies in its nuclear weapons program.
• A stipulation that NSG states may not grant India consent to reprocess the nuclear fuel they supply except in a facility under permanent and unconditional safeguards. Reprocessing allows for the harvesting of plutonium for weapons and is not essential to India’s ability to generate nuclear power.
“If the administration fails to support an NSG policy with the conditions established in the Hyde Act, other less constrained suppliers such as Russia and France will gain commercial advantage and undermine U.S. nonproliferation objectives,” Kimball said.
Kimball and other nonproliferation experts have called on Congress to support a resolution (H. Res. 711) introduced in October by Rep. Berman and his Republican colleagues, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that calls on the president only to pursue changes to NSG guidelines that are consistent with the restrictions and conditions established in the Hyde Act.
Following the adoption of the Hyde Act in late-2006, Washington and New Delhi negotiated a bilateral nuclear trade agreement in mid-2007. Before the United States or other nuclear suppliers can finalize bilateral nuclear trade deals with India, the IAEA Board of Governors must approve a new “India-specific” safeguards agreement covering several additional power reactors that India has agreed to classify as “civilian.” After three months of talks, Indian and IAEA officials have not come to terms on that agreement.
If the safeguards agreement is approved, NSG members would then be asked to act on the proposal to exempt India from longstanding NSG guidelines that require comprehensive IAEA safeguards as a condition of nuclear supply.
The Arms Control Association (ACA) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting effective arms control policies. For more information on the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal see www.armscontrol.org/projects/india/