N-deal poses no proliferation danger: scientist

July 21st, 2008 - 8:54 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New York, July 21 (IANS) The proposed US-India civilian nuclear deal poses no proliferation danger and its criticism is unfounded, argues M.R. Srinivasan, former chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, writing in the Wall Street Journal even as the Manmohan Singh government seeks a confidence vote on the issue in parliament. In an opinion piece published Monday in the Asia edition of the Journal, Srinivasan has sought to allay the fears of some non-proliferation advocates in the US who have stepped up their campaign against the deal, now passing through a delicate phase, apprehending that it would facilitate a new nuclear test by India and thereafter allow it to upgrade its nuclear arsenal.

“These critics fail to appreciate India’s generally peaceable historical approach to nuclear weapons. This dates to modern India’s early years, when the political leadership in the 1950s called on all countries to abjure from nuclear tests and to dismantle all nuclear weapons,” Srinivasan writes.

Arguing that India’s use of nuclear materials and technology is overwhelmingly civilian, he says in the article: “When India has pursued nuclear technology for military use, it has been as a defensive measure. Geopolitical compulsions such as China’s growing military and economic strength and Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons forced India to embark on developing a ‘credible minimum deterrent’.”

After its second series of nuclear tests in 1998 (its first was in 1974, and led to a strict embargo of nuclear trade by industrialised countries though India had breached none of its international agreements), New Delhi announced a “no first use” policy.

It also declared a voluntary moratorium on further tests. It has maintained this restraint for the past 10 years, and will continue to observe responsible restraint in the future, Srinivasan remarks in the Journal.

He also rebuts the suggestion that when India accesses uranium from overseas, it will free up its own modest uranium stock to build a bigger nuclear arsenal. He cites the fact that even a small fraction of the 100,000 tonnes of uranium India has “could support a sizeable nuclear weapons programme anyway - if that were India’s intent in the first place”.

India, Srinivasan says, has an exemplary record with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and gives the example of the Tarapur reactors in Maharashtra which continue to be under IAEA safeguards even though the life of the agreement formally governing that relationship has ended.

Although India has not joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the country is a mature democracy and its commitment to non-proliferation can hardly be in doubt, he writes.

“India never shows up on the list of proliferation problem states. The global network that spreads illicit nuclear weapon technologies is focused in Pakistan, and North Korea, Libya and Iran have been the main customers. China has actively assisted Pakistan in the latter’s quest for nuclear weapons in the past, and it’s unclear whether such cooperation has actually stopped.”

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