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India not a model nuclear state: report

By By Aziz Haniffa in Washington
Last updated on: September 08, 2005 21:00 IST
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Top United States nuclear experts have taken strong exception to New Delhi's claim of an impeccable track record with regard to non-proliferation and declared that India is hardly a model citizen.

The report comes on the eve of the Bush administration sending a formal presentation to the Congress for a change of laws to envisage the transfer of civilian nuclear reactors and other nuclear technology to India. 

David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, while acknowledging that India has not "spread nuclear weapons anywhere," and could in no way be compared to the clandestine procument methods of Pakistan, asserted,"but my experience with India has not been that it's a model".

Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, is scheduled to appear before the House International Relations Committee, along with Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for arms control and international security, to testify at a hearing to examine the nuclear and security issues announced in July during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington.

Albright, a former United Nations nuclear weapons inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency, who testifies regularly before the Congress, said, "I mean, if you think of Iraq, and the (Indian) company NEC, we know they were providing missile technology to Iraq in violation of the sanctions, and NEC is associated with the Indian military. It's not just a renegade company."

During a meeting, attended by several senior Bush administration officials and policy wonks from leading thinktanks and arms control organizations, to release the new ISIS report 'Global Stocks of Nuclear Explosive Materials,' Albright also argued that it shouldn't be forgotten that "India wanted to sell a research reactor to Iran," and that "there have been links to the precursors to the Iranian chemical weapons program."

"So, there are serious enforcement issues in the Indian export controls and I know they are trying to improve their export control system, but I haven't seen any way that they are able to enforce export control laws in the same way that you would see in a country like Germany, which can actually prevent WMD (weapons of mass destruction)-related technologies or items, going out of India," he said.

Albright said India was nowhere "near that point," of having an "effective export control system," and that there was evidence of exchange of fissile material from its civilian and military programs.

He said India, for years, has been illegally procuring nuclear weapons material and alleged that some Indian companies may have "bought material from the Khan network too."

Pakistan's nuclear bazaar

Albright said, "We've been struggling to try to understand India's gas centrifuge program and one of the surprises there was that it's a program that really does depend on foreign procurement."

However, he conceded that "they are not like Pakistan-they (India) tend to focus on kind of just going through the front door and they often get denied for items. But they have a system where they ask for things from companies - sell the order in essence - and we've seen these companies going out and getting these materials."

Albright reiterated that "it's not at all like kind of the level of Pakistan by any means, but it's a concern that they are going around buying things illegally and the government can kind of say, 'Well, we are not really responsible because we sold this offer to a company that then goes out and does it and (the company) that is responsible."

He claimed the government of India "sells tenders and if a company buys the tender, they get the details of what is being sought and then they go and get it for the Indian centrifuge program. And this is happening in some cases illegally."

Albright said India was not patrolling this process in so far as to say, "when you go to a company in Germany you are going to tell them it is for the centrifuge program, which India knows as soon as they say that, unless the company is asleep, it's going to say no."

"But it does mean that companies do have to be aware of the fact that India continues to look for items for its centrifuge program," he said, adding, "ironically it did get things from people in the Khan network - both out of South Africa and also dependent on European companies in the 1980s for many items and the same companies that were involved were very major suppliers for Khan."

"In the 1980s, the Indians were getting a lot of equipment for the gas centrifuge program from the same companies that were providing the same equipment to the Pakistanis. And some of the same people who have turned out to figure very prominently in the Khan network were involved in some of these sales to India," Albright added.

The former UN nuclear weapons inspector said some of the material that India had procured illegally, could very well have been used for thermonuclear weapons.

He said since the export control system in India, "while on paper is improving, the enforcement of it isn't very good and so there are concerns that spin-off technologies or items from the centrifuge programs and other parts of the nuclear industry could end up being sold in places that it shouldn't end up at. So there is an ongoing worry that they (the government of India) is not on top of this problem and they want to make money off of these things."

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By Aziz Haniffa in Washington