US Senate votes to approve nuclear cooperation agreement with India

[JURIST] The US Senate voted Wednesday to approve legislation [HR 7081 text, PDF] establishing a cooperative nuclear energy agreement with India. The bill, entitled the "United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act," was approved by a vote of 86-13 [roll call vote], and now heads to the White House for signature. The agreement is an important step for India, and ends a nearly 30-year US ban on nuclear trade with India. India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [text, PDF], and has developed a nuclear energy infrastructure and weapons systems. The agreement will allow US businesses to sell nuclear technology, supplies and services to India, and also subjects Indian civilian nuclear reactors to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website]. The Arms Control Association (ACA) [advocacy website], called the deal "unprecedented and imprudent" [ACA press statement], characterizing it as "a nonproliferation disaster," and itemizing its objections:

Contrary to the counterfactual claims of proponents and apologists, it does not bring India into the “nonproliferation mainstream” and India’s so-called separation plan is not credible from a nonproliferation perspective:
- U.S. and foreign nuclear fuel supplies to India’s civil nuclear sector would free up scarce domestic supplies for exclusive use for weapons production. This could allow India to increase its bomb production rate and accelerate Pakistan’s bomb production;
- The agreement fails to prohibit India from extracting tritium (a radioactive gas used to boost the explosive power of nuclear bombs) for weapons from its “safeguarded” power reactors;
- As reported in the Sept. 18 edition of The Washington Post, India’s nuclear technology procurement practices do not conform with those of responsible nuclear suppliers and they risk the leakage of sensitive information;
- India's civil-military separation plan would allow the free flow of personnel and information between safeguarded and unsafeguarded faciliites [sic];
- Unlike the United States and other nuclear weapon-states, India has refused to sign the CTBT and halt the production of nuclear bomb material. The opposition BJP may not respect the current Indian government’s nuclear test moratorium pledge.
In a statement [text], Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] applauded the Congressional approval of the agreement. Reuters has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

In August, US Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee [committee website], urged Secretary Rice to postpone the US-India nuclear deal [JURIST report] until requiring India to provide permanent security for nuclear facilities and stop nuclear weapons testing. The US and other nuclear powers have become increasingly accepting of India's nuclear program, but in May they cited Iran's program as a major threat to the goals of the NPT [JURIST report] in a joint statement [text, PDF] issued at the end of a two-week meeting [official website] of 106 NPT member nations. The countries urged Iran, currently under UN sanctions for its nuclear program, to accept an incentive package [JURIST reports] in exchange for abandoning uranium enrichment. That statement also addressed the nuclear situation in North Korea [JURIST news archive], which opted out of the treaty in 2003 to restart disarmament negotiations.

 

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