By: Scott Gearity
For three and a half decades now under the bargain struck between the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) five acknowledged nuclear-weapons states (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US) and its non-nuclear-weapon states has gone like this: in exchange for the non-nuclear-weapons states forgoing nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons states agreed to provide them with peaceful civilian nuclear power technology, subject to safeguards agreements overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since the treaty entered into force in 1970, it has become the most broadly accepted arms control agreement in history. Only three states never acceded to the NPT – India, Israel, and Pakistan. (Former member North Korea withdrew in 2003.) Consistent with its obligations under the NPT, the US has long subjected countries outside the treaty to the most strict nuclear nonproliferation export controls, represented on the Commerce Country Chart (pdf) by an “X” in the NP 2 column.
But when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh bid farewell to Washington this past July after meeting with President Bush, he left with a huge prize. The United States had just committed to essentially rewrite the rules for trade in nuclear technology in favor of India, which of course continues to operate a nuclear weapons program external to the NPT. In his joint statement with Singh, Bush praised India as a “responsible state” with a “strong commitment to prevent WMD proliferation” and asserted that “India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states”. To that end, the American president said he would “also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies, and the United States will work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India”. In addition, the US committed “to remove certain Indian organizations from the Department of Commerce’s Entity List”.
The Bush Administration took the first concrete steps to implement its new stance toward India on August 30 when it published a final rule, amending the EAR effective immediately, which eases restrictions on exports and reexports to India of items controlled for unilateral nuclear nonproliferation reasons. The new regulation removes the “X” from beside India in Column NP 2 of the Commerce Country Chart and thereby eliminates several license requirements for exports and reexports to India, including those for the following items:
- ECCN 1A290: depleted uranium
- ECCN 1C298: graphite for non-nuclear end-uses
- ECCNs 2A290, 2A291, 2A292, 2A293, 2B290, 2D290, 2E001, 2E002, 2E290: nuclear plant equipment and related software and technology
- ECCNs 3A292 and 3E292: certain oscilloscopes and related technology
In addition, the Entity List is now that much shorter with the removal of the following Indian organizations:
- Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC)
- ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvananthapuram
- ISRO Space Applications Center (SAC), Ahmadabad
- Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) Tarapur (TAPS 1 & 2)
- DAE Rajasthan (RAPS 1 & 2)
- DAE Kundankulam 1 & 2 (this power plant, still under construction, was never explicitly named to the Entity List, but now that the Indian Government has agreed that it will be placed under IAEA safeguards once work is completed
In removing unilateral nuclear nonproliferation sanctions on India and reducing the number of that country’s organizations subject to the sanctions of the Entity List, the administration has now completed the two major steps toward its goal of a new nuclear relationship with India that it can accomplish entirely within the existing authority of the executive branch. As the Bush-Singh joint statement itself admits, further movement toward greater civilian nuclear cooperation will require the assent of the US Congress and the multilateral Nuclear Suppliers Group. The irony of the US seeking NSG acquiescence to increased nuclear technology transfers to India is especially rich when one considers the origins of that regime.
The NSG is a child of India’s 1974 nuclear test in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, which spurred governments to take action to stem the export of nuclear materials and equipment to India and other states demonstrating a proliferation risk. In his testimony before the House Committee on International Relations earlier this month, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Robert G. Joseph hinted that some US allies participating in the NSG might be amenable to the US proposals for full peaceful nuclear cooperation with India (he specifically mentioned the UK). Still, the NSG operates by consensus, so it will be interesting to see if a State Department office not recently known for its diplomatic achievements (current US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton was Joseph’s predecessor) can win one for the home team.