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'N-deal is not justified'

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Last updated on: March 07, 2006 11:34 IST

Dr Leonard Weiss has worked on nonproliferation issues and legislation for nearly 30 years as a consultant and former staff director of the US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. He was a chief architect of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, which will have to be changed or amended for the India-US nuclear agreement to go pass through US Congress.

Dr Weiss, who was kind enough to agree to the Rediff Chat despite what he describes as his "rusty typing skills," explained why he opposes the India US nuclear deal, and supports India's entry as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. 

For those of you who missed this fascinating chat, here is the complete transcript:

nukeyou asked, 
Dear Mr Weiss, can you please give in a nutshell what the two countries stand to gain from the deal and what compromises do they have to make?
Leonard Weiss answers, India gains de facto recognition as a nuclear weapon state; the ability to obtain nuclear fuel, equipment, and technology for its civilian program; assistance and cooperation on space launch capabilities and technology; and participation in international efforts to develop advanced nuclear technology. The only compromise India must make is to allow IAEA safeguards on 14 out of 22 nuclear reactors, while retaining the ability to make as many weapons as it can. The U.S. gets some promises from India on cooperation in some aspects of nonproliferation and intelligence sharing, and probably some major purchases of defense equipment. In return for this, the US must change its nonproliferation laws to accomodate India and arguably violate its commitments under the NPT.
manoj asked, How can India sign NPT with China pointing their nukes all round the world and flexing their muscle with almost all neighbours?
Leonard Weiss answers, I think most people recognize that asking India to sign the NPT as a non-weapon state at this point is a non-starter. But it would be helpful to international stability and peace if India were to do as all the weapon states have done, including China (though not formally, in China's case) which is to stop production of new fissile material for weapons.
Sarang asked, Hi, Why didn't NPT have ban on Nuclear testing for all countries? Why were big 5 exempted at first place?
Leonard Weiss answers, The NPT was went into effect in 1970 after the "big 5" had already produced weapons and tested them.
sumit asked, Mr Weiss, Do you think the N Deal will pass through easily in Congress ?
Leonard Weiss answers, It's too early to say. There will be bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition, but Republicans especially will tend to be supportive of President Bush and vote for the agreement.
Vijay asked, Why was an NPT deal made excluding India - almost one fifth of humanity. Whats the rationate in asking India to sign NPT. Treaties are negotiated. Not forrced to be signed. By international law treaties signed under duress are anyway invalid.
Leonard Weiss answers, India wasn't excluded. It chose not to sign the NPT.
tslover asked, Dear Sir, Do you think that the NPT is a status quo tool that the already well off countries are using to their advantage? there were no bars for them and how can you call them responsible and others not responsible - what is the judging area???
Leonard Weiss answers, Any country that satisfies the requirements of the NPT and UN Security Coucil Resolution 1540 is being responsible.
nuclearwinter asked, Dr Weiss, how can the US justify this deal with India, while denying similar status to other powers like Pakistan and Israel?
Leonard Weiss answers, I don't think the deal is justified for India, and I don't think the Bush Administration has a logical argument to make regarding Pakistan and Israel.
Sarang asked, When will planned reduction of Nuclear arsenal be part of NPT?
Leonard Weiss answers, It is part of NPT requirements for nuclear weapon states.
srdude asked, Mr Weiss, do you agree with George Perkovich that: "...lots of nonproliferation experts have double standards. Isn't that obvious?" If so, why should the US Congress or the media pay attention to anything you have to say?
Leonard Weiss answers, I don't have a double standard. It is true that the NPT is (necessarily) discriminatory, but not in terms of its ultimate goal which is nuclear disarmament. There may be some nonproliferation experts who want the U.S. to have its weapons forever. I'm not one of them.
nuclearwinter asked, Dr Weiss, are you there? Just a line saying yes will let us know..
Leonard Weiss answers, yes
rama asked, But do you really feel that the logical goal of permanent disarmament is realistic?
Leonard Weiss answers, Nudlear disarmament as a goal is not unrealistic. General and complete disarmament probably is unrealistic.
srdude asked, Have you raised your voice against Linton Brooks' statement on March 4 that: "The end of the cold war did not end the importance of nuclear weapons," continued the chief steward of the US nuclear weapons programme. "I do not see any chance of the political conditions for abolition arising in my lifetime, nor do I think abolition could be verified if it were negotiated."
Leonard Weiss answers, I do not agree with Linton Brooks, and have said publicly that the nuclear weapon states must satisfy their obligations under the NPT to engage in good gaith negotiations toward nuclear disarmament. It is true that it will be difficult to get weapon states to give up their dependence on these weapons, but I see no reason to give in to such addiction.
nuclearwinter asked, Dr Weiss, when you drafted the NPT, did you consider the possibility of nations testing nevertheless?
Leonard Weiss answers, I did not draft the NPT. I drafted a domestic law called the Nuclear Nonprolifertion Act of 1978.
Sarang asked, is any action taken on disarmament by nuclear weapons state? we never hear news that USA destroyed xx nuclear heads
Leonard Weiss answers, The U.S. is obligated to reduce its arsenal to between 1700 and 2200 warheads by 2012. It has already done some reductions. More needs to be done. The U.S. is also committed to not make any more fissile material for weapons.
Indianpatriot asked, Sir, what happens if this deal is rejected by Congress?
Leonard Weiss answers, The deal would then be dead and it would be up to the Administration to decide whether to try to renegotiate an alternative.
ramananda asked, Dr Weiss, if India had not signed this deal with the US, but continued with its production of both Nuclear weapons and energy, what could the US have done?
Leonard Weiss answers, Very little. But at least the U.S. would not be contributing to India's manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Indianpatriot asked, Yet Washington never ratified the CTBT...doesn't that smack of hypocrisy?
Leonard Weiss answers, I believe the U.S. should ratify the CTBT. The U.S. has signed the treaty, and is committed to not test despite not having ratified as yet.
Three asked, Why do you think USA trying to bypass NPT for India's Cause
Leonard Weiss answers, The Bush Administration has been unfriendly to many international treaties. I do not agree with its positions in this respect.
srdude asked, US Congress approved sale of nuclear reactors to China without safeguards and with taxpayer subsidies in 1998; do you agree this deal with India is a lot better than the US-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.
Leonard Weiss answers, I am aware of no U.S. nuclear assistance to China that has advanced China's nuclear weapons program. I was opposed to the originally proposed U.S.-China nuclear agreement and was partially responsible for the restrictions imposed by Congress on the agreement in the 80s. I don't think making one error requires one to make another.
desiguy asked, Mr Weiss, were you aware that some US agencies were discreetly helping AQ Khan in his efforts to procure technology and equipment from Europe? Did you oppose it?
Leonard Weiss answers, I am aware of no U.S. government agency helping A.Q. Khan. I worked as hard as I could for over 20 years to try to stop Khan's activities.
Girish asked, Dr. Weiss, you are opposed to the recent nuclear deal with India. But this deal is in no way contributing to India's weapons programme. Then what is your worry. Please tell.
Leonard Weiss answers, The deal will contribute to India's weapon program in ways I have already described.
reidff asked, do you think npt has been a failure. india, pakistan, isreal,south africa,north korea have managed to get nuclear weapons
Leonard Weiss answers, 183 nations have signed the NPT, giving up their right to make nuclear weapons. South Africa dismantled its weapons and signed the Treaty. Only three countries in the world never signed the Treaty (India, Pakistan, Israel) and only one has ever left the Treaty (NOrth Korea). I don't call that record a failure.
Indianpatriot asked, Sir, by agreeing to the separation of its civilian and military facilities, don't you think India has already somewhat compromised its' strategic capabilities?
Leonard Weiss answers, No. India's ability to continue and expand its weapon making abilities is completely intact.
srdude asked, Talking abou double standards, what did you do when information on Chinese proliferation to Pakistan was sought to be suppressed by previous US Administrations?
Leonard Weiss answers, When I worked in the U.S. Senate, I had my boss at the time, Senator John Glenn, expose China's role in speeches on the Senate Floor.
ramananda asked, Sir, do you at least support the contention that India has been so far a 'responsible' nuclear power?
Leonard Weiss answers, India has not spread nuclear weapon technology like Pakistan, but India did establish its weapon program by violating two contracts with Canada and the U.S. concerning the CIRUS research reactor which was provided to India with a requirement of "peaceful use". That was not being "responsible". India also has been involved in illegally using agents abroad in obtaining components and technology for its own weapon program.
srdude asked, It is easy to stop production of fissile material when you have 7000 warheads like the US. Isn't it hypocritical to ask India to do it when they have so few? Do China and US support signing of FMCT at this time?
Leonard Weiss answers, India may have more weapons than you think. China and the U.S. are in favor of negotiating an FMCT; the U.S. has announced that, pending such a treaty, it will not produce any more fissile material for weapons.
indian asked, will this nuclear deal bring down oil prices
Leonard Weiss answers, No
Sarang asked, What action were taken against China and west european corporates when everyone knows the origin of Pakistani nuclear programme?
Leonard Weiss answers, I have written much about the Pakistani nuclear program, and think more ahould have been done to stop it. The U.S. did sanction Chinese companies engaged in illicit nuclear assistance to Pakistan.
panchdeep asked, Why are you defending an obsolete system erected in the Cold War? You have already done away with some of the Cold War arrangements like ABM treaty. Why don't you revise the NPT and accomodate a responsible country like India?
Leonard Weiss answers, Revising the NPT is a very difficult procedural problem. However, if the state-parties to the treaty were willing to admit India to membership, it could be done. I did not agree with the decision to abandon the ABM Treaty. I don't think the decision has resulted in an improvement of U.S. national security.
ramananda asked, Sir, what are your views on the proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India, across pakistan?
Leonard Weiss answers, I have no problem with India trying to improve its energy situation in cost-effective ways that threaten no one.
fanofbryan asked, In essence, your opinion on the proposed nuclear deal Dr. Weiss? I truly believe India will be responsible with respect to profileration and will abide by all treating and accords it signs. However, i still believe the deal was not a good idea. I think making an exception for india opens the proverbial pandora's box by 'setting a precedent' and will eventually weaken the non-proliferation framework. thats my concern and i believe no one country is important enough to put those at risk. Your views?
Leonard Weiss answers, I agree.
prashank asked, what are the chances of nuclear fuel being used as fuel in vehicles, trains & aeroplanes in near or distant future as they used in space probes being sent to far away planets?
Leonard Weiss answers, The U.S. had programs to use nuclear in such applications, and they were all failures.
Indianpatriot asked, Hi, would you support India's claim to a permanent seat on the Security Council?
Leonard Weiss answers, I think that is a good idea.
Wilson asked, Whatever you say nuclear disarmament is not in sight. An authoritarian country like China will continue to have nuclear weapons; worse, the world will have no clue about it precise stockpile. Some unrealistic policy makers, and policy making analysts like you want India to live at the mercy of such a dictator. Don't you think you betray the philosophy of your country's founding fathers who wanted free world safe at anycost?
Leonard Weiss answers, I don't want anyone to live at the mercy of any dictator, and I don't think India's nuclear weapons are the key to protection against anything other than a (highly improbable) nuclear attack by someone else. Your comment about America's founding fathers suggests you haven't read much about their philosophy.
gilly asked, Mr WEiss please answer this DO you think this world should be ruled by US and dictate terms to others; I here wish to post the blackmailing of the US ambaasador to Ind that India have to to vote against Iran ,India have to do that , do this..if they want the tech
Leonard Weiss answers, I don't think the world should be ruled by any country. And I think India's fierce independence makes it foolhardy for anyone to try "blackmail".
Alex asked, Leo,I am sure India would sign NPT if china abandons Nukes.I mean how can you ask India to sign NPT when china has nukes.About your diagreement on pact I would say its not just nuclear weapons, its energy. If India uses oil at current rate the prices and pollution would be really high.India can not afford solar/wind energy researches(time and money) and you don't have them either.
Leonard Weiss answers, No one is asking India to sign the NPT as a non-weapon state any more. But many would like India to do what the officially recognized weapon states are doing, and that is to halt the production of fissile material for weapons. As for energy, India would do much better than nuclear if it used its financial resources to improve end-use efficiency and develop further its hydro and "micropower" resources. That, by the way, is also true of the U.S.
Vijay asked, "India did establish its weapon program by violating two contracts with Canada and the U.S." This is in accurate. Go back and check the letter of the contracts
Leonard Weiss answers, I have. They specifically state that any transferred items must be for "peaceful use" only.
ramananda asked, Dr Weiss, will you be lobbying Congress to oppose the deal?
Leonard Weiss answers, I'm not a lobbyist, but I intend to make my views known to congressional staff (in case any of them don't already know as a result of public briefings I have given as well as publication of an op-ed).
Badri asked, If for some reason, countries want to stop supply of N-tech to india, and india says to hell with safeguards, will it find itself in a position similar to what iran is facing today?
Leonard Weiss answers, No, because it didn't sign the NPT. But it would end cooperation with India in a number of ways.
Vijay asked, if one fifth of humanity is not part of a treaty isn't that a failure?
Leonard Weiss answers, I'm not aware that the question of India's accession or rejection of the NPT was put up for a vote of "one fifth of humanity".
Indianpatriot asked, So if energy is not George W's real concern vis-a-vis India, then what is? What is Dubya's real motive?
Leonard Weiss answers, I wish I knew, but most observers believe it is a combination of a counterweight to China and the further opening of Indian markets to U.S. goods and technology.
Don asked, A tiny section of the non-proliferation community is unnecessarily maligning India on CIrus. Even the CIA report released by you people clearly mentions that India did not agree with your interpretation of Peaceful Nuclear Explosion. Current Canadian diplomats are bluffing about it. Those who had negotiated the deal for the supply had clear understanding about the open option of explosion. The Canadian officials went silent when the Indian government informally released this information to media.
Leonard Weiss answers, You are apparently not aware that the U.S. gave India an aide-memoir in 1970 (four years before Pokhran I) stating that the use of U.S. heavy water (that was used in CIRUS) to procuce plutonium for a nuclear explosion would be a violation of the sales contract. Also, Raj Ramanna, an ex-head of the Indian program, admitted in 1997 that the idea of a "peaceful nuclear explosion" was ridiculous and that the 1974 explosion "wasn't peaceful".
nazim asked, Dont u think Iran has a legitimate right to posses Nukes that all its neighnours...Russia,Pakistan,India,Israel posses it?
Leonard Weiss answers, Iran signed the NPT as a non-weapon state. Therefore, it gave up its right to make nuclear weapons.
Prasad asked, With the nuclear deal with USA last week, will india be recognized as an official neculear state?
Leonard Weiss answers, No. India will still be considered a non-nuclear weapon state under the NPT definition.

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