India’s nuclear tests last week put to rest the hypocrisy of the country’s non-nuclear status since its first test 24 years ago. The Clinton administration acted surprised as they rushed to impose economic sanctions on India, and the hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy unfolded. The sanction makes India the first country subject to the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Law passed by Congress in 1994. The law mandates cutting all U.S. aid to India, including loans. While the law stipulates severe penalties on nations that are developing nuclear weapons, it excludes the already declared nuclear powers — Unites States, Russia, Britain, France and China.
As India’s nuclear tests drew international condemnation, the CIA faced strong criticism for its failure to anticipate such an event. Washington now awaits next week’s findings of Adm. Jeremiah’s investigation on how a U.S. espionage operation failed to detect India’s nuclear weapons. Samuel Berger, the U.S. national security adviser, blames India for deception. But he fails to answer how the administration could ignore the political development of India’s new government. About seven weeks ago, India’s government was elected on a platform that included building the country as a nuclear power.
Buried under the sanctions and the criticisms of the CIA is the paradox that the Clinton administration’s foreign policy helped set the stage for India’s nuclear tests. India’s new government openly declared China as the country’s number one security threat. Despite India’s concerns, Clinton’s foreign policy made it possible for China to buy a vast array of military technology. Such technology has ranged from advanced machine tools to build missiles, bombers and fighter planes. China has also gained supercomputers with special software that simulates nuclear tests. Today, China has the capacity to modernize its nuclear arsenal without detonating real bombs.
Similarly, India benefited from the Clinton administration’s 1995 decision that permitted the country to purchase American nuclear technology. India has a number of unsafeguarded facilities that are not subject to periodic inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. These facilities are capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. It is a formidable task to monitor such a large program, even if the facilities are safeguarded.
Clinton has urged India to sign the Nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The treaty, signed by 149 nations, makes it difficult for nuclear powers to develop advanced atomic weapons. Non-nuclear states also have more difficulty acquiring such weapons under the treaty.
Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., said the treaty, not yet ratified by Congress, merely legitimizes a country’s de facto possession of nuclear weapons as long as they are not caught testing them. New technology now allows countries to build new, more lethal nuclear weapons without conducting tests that can be monitored. While the United States shores up its espionage to ferret out the nuclear truth, the Clinton administration should take a candid look at its own foreign policy initiatives. It’s only fair that the administration take responsibility for a situation it helped create.