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'Reject N-deal if it falls short of domestic laws'

May 17, 2007 20:15 IST

Ahead of the crucial Indo-US talks on an agreement to operationalise the civilian nuclear deal, a group of 15 non-proliferation specialists have written to members of Congress urging them to reject any pact that falls short of American domestic laws.

"Under pressure from its nuclear establishment and opposition parties, the Indian government is lobbying for further concessions from the Bush administration in several critical areas," the signatories said.

If the Bush administration 'concludes the negotiation by conceding to the Indian position in certain areas, the result could be reduced accountability, increased Indian nuclear weapons production capacity, further damage to the credibility of US non-proliferation efforts, and a proposed agreement for nuclear cooperation that is inconsistent with minimal conditions for trade established in law by Congress,' they said.

The non-proliferation specialists, who have signed the petition, include Joseph Cirincione of the Centre for American Progress; Ambassador Ralph Earle, former Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Darly Kimball of the Arms Control Association and Len Weiss of Stanford University.

"We urge you to communicate to the White House that you will oppose any proposed agreement for nuclear cooperation with India that does not explicitly meet all the requirements outlined in US law and other well-established US policies for civil nuclear cooperation," they said, going on to talk about nuclear testing, IAEA safeguards and reprocessing/enriching provisions.

"These requirements should pose no problem, given Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's July 18, 2005 pledge to continue India's unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. Nevertheless, New Delhi wants assurances that commercial nuclear contracts will continue even if it resumes nuclear testing and the underlying agreement is breached.

"Unlike 177 other states, India has so far refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and is, unfortunately, under no legal obligation not to test. At the same time, New Delhi must recognise that if it chooses to do so, other states are under no legal or political obligation to assist India if it defies the world with another nuclear blast," the specialists said.

To avoid any misunderstanding, they said, 'the agreement for nuclear cooperation must explicitly state that renewed nuclear testing by India would lead to the termination of US nuclear assistance.'

New Delhi is seeking 'India-specific safeguards that would be suspended if foreign fuel supplies are interrupted. There is no precedent or IAEA safeguards agreement that would allow for such an option, and it would be highly irresponsible for the US Government to ever go along with such a hollow arrangement.

"Other US agreements for nuclear cooperation also contain a US right to enter into bilateral safeguards arrangements with our cooperating partners in the event that the IAEA is not applying or will not apply its safeguards to material subject to those agreements," the signatories said.

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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