The Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement has entered uncharted waters.
In meetings held in Vienna on Thursday and Friday, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, or NSG, could not come to an agreement on the waiver for India. NSG is an informal club of nations that control the international market for nuclear material and technology. It takes decisions by consensus and it was always expected that India would run into resistance at this forum. But what is surprising is the nature of that resistance, something that reinforces what India has always argued: nuclear hypocrisy.
The root of the problem at NSG is the unwillingness of a group of nations—Austria, Ireland and New Zealand, mainly—to give India a waiver unless it signs the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Many want India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). In addition, they want to restrict the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ER) technologies to India. This is something that India has not agreed to in the past, nor should it ever, unless there is uniform, multilateral disarmament in the world. That is unlikely to happen anytime soon and the three peacenik nations realize that too. While NPT and CTBT are laudable goals, can any of these countries assure India that Pakistan and China will give up nuclear weapons? Until then, they should stop tilting at nuclear windmills.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
This is where hypocrisy begins. Austria, Ireland and New Zealand have never faced hostile neighbours. After 1945, they have not faced wars on their territory. They are free from terrorism. In addition, as part of the Western alliance, led by the US, they have informal security guarantees from the US in case of aggression by non-Nato non-OECD countries. This peace dividend has blinded them to the needs of other nations.
India could have wrapped up the waiver last week itself had it gone to NSG earlier. There are internal divisions within NSG. Many countries feel that India can gain access to ER technologies if the waiver gets through. Countries such as France and Russia that are eyeing the lucrative Indian market may throw these technologies as “sweeteners” to get nuclear power plant contracts. This is the peacenik dilemma: On the one hand, they want to say no to India to further non-proliferation goals, but, on the other hand, they don’t want to lose nuclear commerce. It’s also called hypocrisy.
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