New Delhi: The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), which begins in Washington DC today, will see top officials from 47 nations gather together to discuss the issue of securing nuclear materials globally. The summit is notable for being the largest convention of global leaders brought together by any President since a meeting called by Franklin Roosevelt in 1945.
While India’s Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Yusuf Raza Gilani are both participating in the summit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be attending. Neither Iran nor North Korea were invited to attend, and Tehran is organizing its own global conference called Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For None, which begins soon after the NSS ends.
Given its status as a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) who is also engaging in a civilian nuclear deal with the US, India’s position is particularly controversial, with many US based analysts of the view that aiding India with uranium for its civilian nuclear programme will allow the country to divert its domestic resources for the production of weapon materials. Additionally, experts have stated that India’s separation plan by which New Delhi will separate civilian and military facilities, declare the former and place them under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards has a loophole. “Although IAEA safeguards ensure that nuclear material is not diverted, there are no procedures or measures in place to ensure that information, technology and know-how are not transferred from the civil sector to the military sector,” writes nonproliferation analyst Paul Kerr, in a recent Congressional Research Service report entitled US Nuclear Cooperation with India: Issues for Congress.
According to Brahma Chellaney, professor of Strategic Studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, neither of these apprehensions is founded in reality. “India is the only nuclear weapons state in the world that has voluntarily placed its entire civil nuclear programme under international inspections in perpetuity. Therefore to say material or technology can pass form civil to material sides is to question the efficacy of IAEA safeguards, which historically have never failed,” he says.
To listen to the full interview with Chellaney, click here
In his report, Kerr also highlights the view that a nuclear deal with India should come with more stringent conditions. “In view of many nonproliferation analysts, the key to ensuring that civilian nuclear cooperation does not assist India’s weapons program is to insist on New Delhi halting its fissile material production for weapons,” he writes.
Chellaney’s response is to point out that India’s plutonium stockpile is “almost miniscule,” far smaller than that of the US and only marginally larger than that of Pakistan, a nation that began its nuclear programme 30 years after India. “For India to cease all fissile material production for weapons purposes when it does not even have a minimum deterrent against China would be to ask for the impossible. India has to first build a credible minimal deterrent against China and only then can it be in a position to halt further development of fissile material,” he says.