"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Professor of History, Montgomery College
July 1, 2020
Nonproliferation Experts Call on State Department to Come Clean on Questions Concerning U.S.-Indian Nuclear Deal

For Immediate Release: March 5, 2008
Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107; Fred McGoldrick (617) 298-2024

(Washington, D.C.) As U.S. and Indian officials race against the clock to win domestic and international approval for a controversial proposal to relax rules governing nuclear trade with India, leading critics of the proposal are calling on the U.S. government to make public its responses to congressional questions aimed at sorting out ambiguous and contradictory statements about the deal.

Today, two former senior nonproliferation officials, Fred McGoldrick and Henry Sokolski, joined Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Senior Associate Sharon Squassoni in calling upon the State Department to drop a virtual “gag” order on its unclassified responses to a detailed set of over 40 questions about the pending U.S.-Indian nuclear trade deal sent in October by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“The administration’s responses should be made publicly available so that U.S. and Indian lawmakers and the public can evaluate whether the draft U.S.-Indian accord conforms to the terms and conditions established by Congress,” Kimball said. “The administration’s unwillingness to make their answers more widely available suggests they have something to hide from either U.S. or Indian legislators,” he said. Key questions the committee asked the State Department to answer include:

  • will the U.S. government terminate nuclear trade with India if it resumes testing?
  • whether the United States intends to transfer sensitive nuclear technology through the agreement, or outside the agreement that can be used to make nuclear weapons material?
  • will the new safeguards agreement between India and the IAEA apply in perpetuity as called for in U.S. law, or be subject to unspecified “corrective actions” as India demands?, and
  • would the U.S. government be legally required to help India secure nuclear fuel supplies from other states even if U.S. nuclear cooperation is suspended?

“Given that the administration’s answers are not classified, they should be willing to share them with all members of the Congress and with the public,” said Fred McGoldrick, former director of nonproliferation and export policy at the U.S. State Department.

“This proposed agreement with India will have profound and adverse consequences for the international nonproliferation regime. The draft text contains numerous ambiguities, and the Congress and the public need to know how the administration interprets various provisions in the text,” McGoldrick added. For an analysis of the text see: www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2007/20070803_IndiaUS.asp.

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, who served as deputy for nonproliferation policy under Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, agreed. “Sitting on the answers to these questions is no way to clear the air on the deal’s controversial provisions, which the Indian public is rightly worried about,” he said.

Under a 2006 law known as the Henry J. Hyde Act, Congress granted the U.S. president limited and conditional authority to waive the longstanding U.S. legal restrictions on nuclear trade with countries, such as India, that have tested nuclear weapons, have not joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and do not allow comprehensive international nuclear safeguards. In 2007, Washington and New Delhi negotiated a bilateral nuclear trade agreement, which President George W. Bush may submit to Congress for approval later this year.

“The proposed nuclear cooperation agreement papers over key differences between Washington and New Delhi, such as whether nuclear cooperation would be cut off if India tests a nuclear device,” said Sharon Squassoni.

For months, Indian officials have insisted that they seek full nuclear cooperation, including access to uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies, which can be used to produce nuclear bomb material. They also have sought to secure nuclear fuel supply guarantees and multi-year fuel reserves to give India the option to resume testing without penalty.

“As a result, the agreement contains undefined terms, and unorthodox approaches which make it unlike any other agreement the United States has previously signed. All members of Congress and the public deserve to see the administration’s responses to the many questions about the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal,” stated Squassoni.

U.S. and Indian officials also have made contradictory statements about the relevance of the restrictions and conditions on nuclear trade in the Hyde Act on U.S. and international nuclear trade with India.

On March 3, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the parliament that India’s future nuclear trade with the U.S. and other states would not be governed by the requirements of the Hyde Act. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Feb. 13 that U.S. policy governing nuclear trade with India would be “completely consistent” with the Hyde Act.

“Clear responses about the proposed U.S.-Indian nuclear trade deal are needed now, not later, because decisions may soon be taken by other nuclear supplier states that could undermine U.S. nonproliferation law and policy,” Kimball said.

For more information on the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal see www.armscontrol.org/projects/india/

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