Expanding the nuclear family

Giving India nuclear technology compromises the fight against nuclear weapons.

With the passage of a dubious bill last week, the 109th Congress finished its term and left in unremarkable fashion. The bill, which opens up nuclear collaboration with India, can only be described as confusing, from an international policy standpoint. The new legislation will allow U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology and equipment to India for energy-related use. While President George W. Bush eagerly awaits his chance to sign the bill into law, we are left scratching our heads.

The real heart of the issue lies with India’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As a member of the agreement, the United States has pledged to withhold its nuclear technology from nations that have refused the treaty.

India has proven itself to be very fond of its nuclear weapon capabilities. With new technology and raw materials coming from the United States, India will now have unprecedented access to material for weapons. In addition, the new pact hurts the credibility of the NPT. One of the benefits of membership in the NPT is the ability to access nuclear energy technology.

The new legislation is not devoid of safety measures and the United States has included stipulations that mimic the NPT. The deal will become void if India tests nuclear weapons, and the bill would allow close monitoring of India’s nuclear projects. The real benefits to the agreement come to U.S. energy companies. The new pact with India will create massive amounts of trade. Certainly, these points provide some justification for the United States, but they are far outweighed by the bill’s international ramifications.

If the United States wants to be consistently tough on nuclear weapon expansion, it needs to adhere to the NPT and encourage others to do so as well. This current course of action only marginalizes the NPT and cultivates resentment in other countries that are not members of the treaty.

The United States needs to rethink its recent move before the Non-Proliferation Treaty becomes trivial.