Experts and Organizations from 24 Countries Call on Nuclear Suppliers Group to “Avoid a Nonproliferation Disaster”

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For Immediate Release: August 15, 2008

Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Exec. Director, Arms Control Association 1-202-463-8270 x107; Philip White, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, Tokyo, and Coordinator, Abolition 2000 U.S.-India Deal Working Group 81-3-3357-3800

(Washington, D.C.-Tokyo, Japan): In a letter sent this week to the foreign ministers of the participants in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, a prestigious and broad array of more than 150 experts and nongovernmental organizations from 24 countries urged that they reject a George W. Bush administration proposal to exempt India from longstanding global nuclear trade standards.

The experts and NGOs argue in the August 15 letter that “India's commitments under the current terms of the proposed arrangement do not justify making far-reaching exceptions to international nonproliferation rules and norms.”

The Nuclear Suppliers Group will convene on August 21-22 in Vienna to discuss a U.S. proposal to relax longstanding NSG restrictions on trade with states, such as India, that refuse to allow comprehensive international nuclear safeguards. (For the text and an analysis of the U.S. proposal see <>.) Opposition from several countries is expected.

The appeal is part of a global NGO campaign to influence governments’ views about the controversial nuclear trade proposal.

“Unlike 178 other countries, India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It continues to produce fissile material and expand its nuclear arsenal. As one of only three states never to have signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it has not made a legally-binding commitment to achieve nuclear disarmament,” the letter notes.

“Yet the arrangement would give India rights and privileges of civil nuclear trade that have been reserved only for members in good standing under the NPT. It creates a dangerous distinction between ‘good’ proliferators and ‘bad’ proliferators and sends out misleading signals to the international community with regard to NPT norms,” according to the letter.

“In the absence of a suspension of fissile material production for weapons by India, foreign nuclear fuel supplies would free up India’s relatively limited domestic supplies to be used exclusively in its military nuclear sector, thereby indirectly contributing to the potential expansion of India’s nuclear arsenal,” the signatories warn.

The NGOs and experts call upon NSG participant countries “to support measures that would avert further damage to the already beleaguered global nonproliferation and disarmament regime.”

Among the former government officials and experts endorsing the letter is Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala, the former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs and President of the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference. Other notable signatories include the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, former U.S., Canadian, and Australian ambassadors, and the former U.S. official responsible for civilian nuclear trade negotiations.

NGOs from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere endorsed the letter, which was organized by the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center and the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

Given that the IAEA Board and the NSG traditionally operate by consensus, the signatories point out that each member state “has a pivotal role to play.” If the NSG is to allow nuclear trade with India, the experts and NGOs urge NSG participants to establish meaningful and common sense conditions and restrictions on nuclear trade with India, including:

  • Terminating nuclear trade with India if it resumes testing;
  • Prohibiting any transfer of sensitive plutonium reprocessing, uranium enrichment, or heavy water production items to India, which can be used to make bomb material;
  • Before India is granted a waiver from the NSG’s full-scope safeguards standard, it should join the other original nuclear weapon states by declaring it has stopped fissile material production for weapons purposes and transform its nuclear test moratorium into a meaningful, legally-binding commitment.

Unfortunately, Indian officials are demanding a so-called “clean” and “unconditional” exemption from NSG guidelines and are seeking bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements that help provide India with strategic fuel reserves and/or lifetime fuel guarantees in order to allow it to resume nuclear testing in the future without fear of a fuel supply cut off.

The August 15 letter warns the foreign ministers of the NSG countries that “if nuclear testing is to be deterred, meaningful penalties must be available. If NSG states do agree to supply fuel for India’s ‘civilian’ nuclear sector, they must avoid arrangements that would enable or encourage future nuclear testing by India. Otherwise, you and your government may become complicit in the facilitation of a new round of destabilizing nuclear tests.”

For the full list of endorsers and the text of the letter, see < >.