The U.S.-India nuke deal rumbles along

JIM WATSON/AFP Two weeks ago, India and the United States began negotiating the details of an unprecedented bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement—the first such deal with a country that has never signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). These negotiations build on almost two years of preparations following a 2005 Joint Statement pledging greater cooperation between the ...

602702_070410_bushsingh_05.jpg
602702_070410_bushsingh_05.jpg

JIM WATSON/AFP

Two weeks ago, India and the United States began negotiating the details of an unprecedented bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement—the first such deal with a country that has never signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

These negotiations build on almost two years of preparations following a 2005 Joint Statement pledging greater cooperation between the two countries on non-military nuclear activities. But recent revelations that Indian nationals violated U.S. law by exporting sensitive technology to Indian government agencies have complicated matters. The technologies involved were not directly nuclear-related, but the incident has nonetheless raised new doubts about the future of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.

JIM WATSON/AFP

Two weeks ago, India and the United States began negotiating the details of an unprecedented bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement—the first such deal with a country that has never signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

These negotiations build on almost two years of preparations following a 2005 Joint Statement pledging greater cooperation between the two countries on non-military nuclear activities. But recent revelations that Indian nationals violated U.S. law by exporting sensitive technology to Indian government agencies have complicated matters. The technologies involved were not directly nuclear-related, but the incident has nonetheless raised new doubts about the future of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.

In fact, doubts have dogged the agreement all along. In the United States, concerns have arisen about the deal’s implications for the NPT, which defines India as a non-nuclear state, as well as about the baseline assumptions that led the Bush administration to pursue it. And in India, the deal’s limitations have provoked resentment about abrogations of Indian sovereignty and national pride.

The deal also requires a complicated patchwork of legal changes and negotiated agreements before it can come into force. India’s negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency over a safeguards agreement have started but appear to be stalled, for various reasons. Another major obstacle the United States and India must overcome is convincing the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an informal association of countries that produce nuclear fuel and set technology export guidelines, to acquiesce to the changes. Several NSG member states have indicated they support the deal, but others are hesitant.

While there are many hurdles to overcome before the deal can be implemented, and Indian and U.S. officials both blame each other for the current impasse, both sides also appear to want the deal badly. India lacks large reserves of natural uranium, but is optimistic enough about the deal’s prospects to plan a nearly 10-fold expansion in its use of nuclear power in the next 20 years. The United States views the deal as a way to deepen a strategic partnership with India, presumably to hedge against a rising China. Look for this deal to mutate, but move forward, in the coming months.

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