This is just baffling. The story gets at some of the administration’s motivation – which is fine as far as it goes – but the move seems so short-sighted and so at odds with the rest of the adminstration’s aims and policies that I can hardly believe the story is accurate.
President Bush agreed yesterday to share civilian nuclear technology with India, reversing decades of U.S. policies designed to discourage countries from developing nuclear weapons.
The agreement between Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which must win the approval of Congress, would create a major exception to the U.S. prohibition of nuclear assistance to any country that doesn’t accept international monitoring of all of its nuclear facilities. India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires such oversight, and conducted its first nuclear detonation in 1974.
Participants in the discussions said there had been debate within the administration about whether the deal with India — which built its atomic arsenal in secret — would undercut U.S. efforts to confront Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs. There were also concerns about how the agreement would be accepted in Pakistan, India’s regional rival and an ally in the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda.
But supporters of the approach said it was an important part of a White House strategy to accelerate New Delhi’s rise as a global power and as a regional counterweight to China. As part of the strategy, the administration is also seeking ways to bolster Japan’s posture in the region.
[. . . ]
Under the terms of the deal, India agreed to place its civilian nuclear facilities — but not its nuclear weapons arsenal — under international monitoring and pledged to continue to honor a ban on nuclear testing. In return, it would have access, for the first time, to conventional weapons systems and to sensitive U.S. nuclear technology that can be used in either a civilian or a military program. It could also free India to buy the long-sought-after Arrow Missile System developed by Israel with U.S. technology.
The agreement does not call for India to cease production of weapons-grade plutonium, which enables India to expand its nuclear arsenal.
[. . .]
The White House faces two major hurdles to put the deal into effect. One is altering rules in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a consortium of more than 40 countries that controls export of nuclear technology. The group has been unreceptive to previous Bush administration initiatives and will be reluctant to create country-specific rules, said George Perkovich, a nuclear specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The other challenge will be persuading Congress to change the U.S. Nonproliferation Act, which prevents sales of sensitive nuclear technology to countries that refuse monitoring of nuclear facilities.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) condemned the agreement as a “dangerous proposition and bad nonproliferation policy” and said he will introduce legislation to block it. “We cannot play favorites, breaking the rules of the nonproliferation treaty, to favor one nation at the risk of undermining critical international treaties on nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement. “What will Russia say when they want to supply more nuclear materials or technology to Iran? You can be sure that Pakistan will demand equal treatment.”
Jesus. Can this really be as stupid as it looks?