The U.S. and India Nuclear Deal: The Right Thing to Do!

By Megan A. Amer.

Amidst the sound and fury of the debate on the economic bail-out package, the Bush administration scored a quiet and rare foreign policy victory. On October 1, 2008, Congress passed the U.S.-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Act. In simple terms, this means the US and India can now engage in nuclear commerce, and cooperate on major international security issues. For American businesses, this act provides access to India’s market for peaceful nuclear technology worth over $150 billion. And for India this means ending a three-decade ban on nuclear trade.

But beyond the immediate advantages of increased commerce, the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal provides numerous other benefits to the U.S. and the international community.

First, it provides a comprehensive oversight of India’s civilian nuclear facilities, for the first time in over thirty years. India’s acceptance of the International Atomic and Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, will permit intrusive inspections of 14 of India’s 22 nuclear facilities, with the aim of bringing the reactors under agency safeguards by 2014. Furthermore, all future civil nuclear facilities will be placed under the Safeguards Agreement.

Second, the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal strengthens the U.S. relationship by making India a key ally to enhance U.S. security against China and Iran. According to Congressional conditions outlined in the Hyde Act (2006) for the passage of the Nuclear Deal, India must participate in U.S. policies towards dissuading a nuclear Iran. India recently demonstrated its support by voting for additional sanctions on Iran in the U.N. Security Council. Additionally, India has agreed to U.S. nonproliferation initiatives, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), and will support the U.S. in its promotion of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).

Third, the Agreement not only provides for enhanced international security, but also increased security within India at its nuclear facilities to ensure that sensitive material does not get into the wrong hands. In furtherance of this goal, India will enact comprehensive export control legislation and regulations in accordance with the international control regimes, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) regulations.

Fourth, in twenty years the world-wide demand for power is expected to increase by fifty percent. The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal will help in the fight against global warming by providing a viable, cleaner alternative for electricity production over coal. Nuclear power emits no greenhouse gases. Moreover, by promoting nuclear energy, the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal will ease global demand for crude oil and natural gas, thereby lowering oil prices for U.S. consumers.

Lastly and most importantly, the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal will benefit U.S. businesses by opening up India’s civilian nuclear market, worth over $150 billion dollars, to U.S. industry. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that increased trade with India due to the Nuclear Agreement will create over 250,000 new jobs in the U.S.

Although the Deal has received widespread support, such as approval from the IAEA and the 45-member NSG, which regulates international commerce of nuclear materials, there is also criticism of the Agreement.

First, critics argue that the U.S. and India Nuclear Deal will create a dangerous precedent. This ignores the fact that India has a good record on nonproliferation and maintains a voluntary "no first use policy."

Second, it is said that the deal will provoke an arms race in South Asia and that Pakistan will lobby for a similar deal. But China and Pakistan already had nuclear weapons long before this deal was ever imagined and they already posses an effective nuclear deterrent. Moreover, Pakistan is ineligible for a nuclear deal with the U.S. due to domestic law. The Hyde Act states that the U.S. can only cooperate on nuclear energy with nonsignatories of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) if they are a democratic government and if they have a proven record of nonproliferation. Therefore, India is eligible, but Pakistan is not, because questions continue to remain unanswered of Pakistan’s role in the A.Q. Khan network, a clandestine international network of nuclear proliferation, where nuclear weapons technology was sold to Libya, North Korea, and Iran.

Lastly, some believe that the deal could undercut the campaign to curtail Iran's nuclear program. But India in fact has good relations with Iran, could facilitate in negotiations with Iran to end its nuclear program, and supports the U.S. strong stance on a nuclear free Iran.

In conclusion, the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal is a win-win for the U.S. and the international community. It brings India into the international nuclear regulation regime, creates jobs for Americans, is good for the environment, and supports U.S. national interests abroad. For the U.S-India Nuclear Deal, Congress was right in its approval. This deal is worth it.

Megan A. Amer is a second year graduate student at George Washington University where she is conducting research on the role of international law and organizations in international security, particularly their role in nonproliferation.

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