A state with nuclear worries

A state with nuclear worries

Call it the great paradox. India has not succumbed to Western pressure to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state. It, however, betrays great insecurity on the subject. Nuclear weapon powers don’t behave in this manner.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent statements, that US President Barack Obama’s attempts to push for its coverage don’t apply to India and that NPT’s deficiencies have adversely affected our security, are symptomatic of this mindset.

The truth is that India has nothing to fear from NPT. The 2005 Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement practically left no ground for Western nations to tread on. It largely erased a twofold division of the world into nuclear haves and have-nots. But the deal was only the latest in a series of blows to the dream of a nuclear-free world. Had Western countries been sincere about universal disarmament, the present situation would not have arisen.

Having said that, it must be realized that India is in the process of taking serious missteps. Agreeing to participate in a fissile material cut-off treaty, under which production of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium would be prohibited, is one such step. Another one would be to let US commercial companies enter the nuclear energy sector in India even as the Obama administration tightens the screws on Indian access to nuclear technologies.

Finally, and most dangerously, wavering over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) would be a fatal mistake. Though the nuclear establishment may deny this, there are clear indicators that India is buckling under pressure. Outgoing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei said as much on Wednesday when he hinted that CTBT might be more “acceptable" to India. The repeated assertions about a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing by all manner of officials and ministers, including the Prime Minister, hint at this very clearly.

To avoid any complications on this front, such decisions should be deferred until the 2010 NPT review conference is over. This is a decennial jamboree where non-proliferation ayatollahs gather for some fun and make threatening noises. Once it is over, India should take the next steps to secure its nuclear future.

Indian nuclear insecurities: real or imagined? Tell us at views@livemint.com