Column: Nuclear deal leading US into danger

By Se Young Lee

While President George W. Bush’s recent visit to Southeast Asia sought to accomplish numerous objectives, there can be no doubt that the biggest goal was to forge a stronger relationship with India. While a friendship between the world’s most powerful democracy and the world’s most populous democracy is certainly desirable, the nuclear deal at the core of the “strategic partnership” threatens to undermine another – thwarting threats of nuclear proliferation, particularly that of Iran.

Benefits of an amicable tie with India are unquestionable for not only its increasing viability as a major trading partner but also for the purpose of curbing the growing Chinese influence in Asia that threatens to dislodge and overtake American influence with its neighboring states. India, as a legitimate nuclear power traditionally at odds with China, is a perfect partner.

Support the Daily Illini in College Media Madness!

Help the Daily Illini take back the top spot in the College Media Madness fundraising competition! See the current ranking here.

learn more
donate now

The bedrock of this new alliance rests in the Bush administration’s decision to offer cooperation with India’s civil nuclear energy program. Accepting India’s de facto status as a member of the nuclear club could be considered pragmatic, not only in getting the state to take greater responsibilities in using nuclear power but also to give India an alternative source of energy as opposed to oil.

But the deal stands on shaky ground for little gain. The deal still requires approval from congress, where the bargain will have to overcome an almost 30-year-old policy of urging other states to demand full access from importers that supply nuclear material defined as non-nuclear weapon states by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The majority of the concessions by India are simply a matter of codifying current policies. Its pledge to continue its moratorium on nuclear testing is merely an expansion of an already standing agreement with Pakistan. And while Singh’s government agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect some of its nuclear facilities, it has retained the right to designate which plants are civilian or military, as well as the amount of access to the facilities and programs the inspectors will be given.

Further, India has succeeded in convincing the Bush administration that there can be no cap placed on its strategic nuclear arsenal, and appears poised to continue producing weapons-grade fissile material and shows no signs of signing a test ban treaty – unlike the five existing members of the nuclear club. By receiving tacit approval on its demand to exempt fast-breeder reactors, most ideal for producing plutonium for weapons, India could make as many as 50 bombs per year. Considering its hostile relations with Pakistan, the ability to rapidly expand the nuclear arsenal will only serve to escalate the arms race.

More importantly, the deal will give more credence to the notion that a nuclear weapons program will lead to provide greater political capital and international prestige, as well as tangible economic and infrastructural benefits. Juxtaposed with the situation with North Korea, as Kim Jong-Il clamors for greater economic concessions and assurances of its security with nuclear missiles as the bargaining chip, the deal will only encourage others to initiate their own nuclear programs – whether it be through other sympathetic states or through the black market.

But the biggest problem of the nuclear deal with India is that it leaves the United States vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy in its stance against Iran’s nuclear program. Although it is clear through the Persian state’s increasingly brazen rhetoric that it will not merely settle for a “peaceful” nuclear program, it’s difficult to reconcile U.S.’s hard-line approach against Iran with its giddy willingness to break the rules for India, which has also refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and refused demands to allow IAEA inspectors full access to all nuclear facilities designated for “civilian” use.

The cornerstone of the containment policy, which limited the spread of nuclear weapons to only four states in the past 40 years, was to hold fast to the rules and enforce them to all, whether they be friend or foe. By blasting a hole through this wall, the Bush administration might have let back in the specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Se Young Lee is a junior in Communications and the Director of Communications for the Illinois Student Senate. He watched the World Baseball Classic game between Panama and Puerto Rico at 2:30 a.m. after finishing this column. He can be reached at [email protected]ÿ