Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Obama picks India critic for top nonproliferation job

In Congress, Tauscher had stridently attacked nuclear deal, India’s record….

21 March 2009
The Hindu


Obama picks India critic for top nonproliferation job

Siddharth Varadarajan

The appointment of Ellen O. Tauscher to the Obama administration’s top nonproliferation job places a big question mark over the future implementation of the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement.

As a Democratic Congresswoman from California, Ms Tauscher was one of the most prominent critics of the Bush administration’s push to open the doors of global nuclear commerce for India. Not only did she vote against the ‘123 agreement’ in the House last year but she also proposed amending the terms of the deal to make the cut-off of fissile material production by India a precondition when the Hyde Act was before Congress in 2006.

Asked for his reaction to the Tauscher appointment, a senior Indian official told The Hindu on condition of anonymity, “We work with what we get. Never write us off.” But others were less sanguine. “The non-pro people in the State Department were unhelpful but they were usually over-ruled in the Bush administration,” said another official.

“Let us see if the political people are the ones who call the shots now”.

After the Nuclear Suppliers Group waived its rules to allow trade with India last September, Ms. Tauscher called it a “dark day for global efforts to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction.” In a withering attack on the decision, she predicted that “this shortsighted step will ironically do very little for the American nuclear industry, as India will likely buy nuclear technology from Russia and other suppliers.”

In a statement on September 8, 2008, she said the deal made it harder to “curb the South Asian nuclear arms race” and undermined America’s efforts to deal with North Korea and Iran. “It’s a dangerous precedent that would be impossible to erase”, she added, vowing to try and block its passage through Congress. Earlier, in an op-ed with Mr. Markey, she described the Indian deal as a threat to international security.

And in a speech at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratories in 2007, she said the U.S. must expand its “nonproliferation programmes to secure loose nuclear material and extend them to countries of concern such as Pakistan and India.”

When she is confirmed as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ms Tauscher will be Washington’s point person on all proliferation-related issues. She will play a key role in shaping the administration’s approach towards the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the proposed Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), the 2010 NPT Review Conference as well as evolving issues like restricting access to reprocessing and enrichment technology. These are all areas of crucial importance to policymakers in Delhi.

On the Indian front, her direct role would be limited to working the inter-agency process within the Beltway on the potentially thorny issue of finalising reprocessing arrangements and procedures for any reactors the U.S. sells to India. The Indian Department of Atomic Energy has made it clear it will not buy any American reactor until the reprocessing details are worked out to its satisfaction. And given the background of her opposition to the nuclear deal, Ms Tauscher is likely to push for terms that India may consider intrusive or undesirable.

Internationally, Ms Tauscher told the Munich Security Conference last month there were several steps that the Obama administration was likely to take on the arms control front. The FMCT was the most immediate priority she said, adding that the treaty was “not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘have to have.’” The other priorities were penalising NPT signatories who withdrew from the treaty, ratifying the CTBT, entering into direct talks with Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programmes, and restoring the ‘Spratt-Furse’ law in the U.S. banning the development of “mini-nukes.”

If the Indian strategic establishment is not entirely comfortable with the fast-tracking of FMCT talks, it is likely to derive some satisfaction from Ms Tauscher’s tough line on the disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan. “It is long past due for our Pakistani friends to give us full access to A.Q. Khan so that the world may gain a complete understanding of the damage he caused,” she told the Munich conference.

In Ms Tauscher’s view, however, India’s record on proliferation is not much better. Speaking in Congress during the ‘123’ debate last September, she described India as a “country with a dismal record of non-proliferation” which had been “denied access to the market for three decades and for good reason.”

She also joined several legislators in stating that they would not allow President Bush’s signing statement on the 123 law to dilute the requirements of American law to suit India’s concerns.

19 comments on “Obama picks India critic for top nonproliferation job

  1. Anonymous
    April 21, 2009
  2. Anonymous
    April 18, 2009

    Another thing to watch is GREEN VOODOO

    In a race if you are falling behind and cannot run any faster you can still win, by slowing the others down. So as west cannot retain any competitive advantage over say China and India, it can still beat them by changing the rules. Allowing it to create one way trade barriers. While WTO holds down Chinas and Indias barriers, ‘Green Protectionism’ offsets Chinas and Indias competitive advantage. West wins again. They cannot talk declare this out loud so they keep everyone guessing about the real motives. Kinda like what was the real reason to invade Iraq , everyone knows is the supply of oil but cannot declare that out WMD, Tyrant leader, terrorism , whatever else. Same here in CO2 game, real reason is to regain competitive advantage via ‘Green Protectionism’ while babble about motivations being, climate change arrest, or sea rise level halt or whatever else.

  3. Anonymous
    April 16, 2009

    Let’s take a look at the “concrete steps” President Obama mentioned in his Prague speech.

    1. The role of nuclear weapons in America’s national security strategy will be lessened. Obama, however, gave no details about a time frame nor did he give concrete examples. Currently, the role of such weapons is still theoretically central to U.S. strategy. The use of such weapons against nations who have no nuclear capability is admittedly considered possible. The only nuclear power to thus far reject the doctrine of first use is China.

    2. A new agreement is to be signed with Russia, limiting strategic nuclear weapons. This is inevitable and already a done deal, because the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I), signed in 1991 and put into effect in 1994, will expire on December 5th of this year. Both sides obligated themselves with this treaty to limit their respective arsenals to 6,000 nuclear warheads and bombs and 1,600 long-range missiles.

    In the meantime, the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), ratified in 2003, limits deployed warheads and bombs to between 1,700 and 2,000 for each side. This treaty contains loopholes, but it’s possible that the upper limits agreed to with SORT could serve as a starting point for to the treaty that will replace START-I. Obama has, in fact, already suggested a non-binding number of 1,000, a figure that would still give the United States and Russia a big edge and would allow continuation of the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” against any credible opponent. Besides that, the U.S. and Russia presumably would reduce weapons stockpiles in tandem with reductions by all other nuclear powers.

    3. Obama intends to champion the cause for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the U.S. Congress. This 1996 treaty replaced the 1968 treaty, which banned all nuclear tests except for those conducted underground. The treaty is still not in force because of opposition to it in the U.S. Senate. In practice, however, the Soviet Union and Russia had abstained from testing since 1991, and the U.S. has abstained since 1992. Ratification would ensure the technological superiority of U.S. and Russian weapons over other nuclear powers, while simultaneously making development more difficult for latecomers like India and Pakistan, and practically ensuring newcomers would never develop a nuclear capability. The CTBT, thus, would serve mainly U.S. interests, despite contrary opinions from the U.S. Congress.

    4. The U.S. government intends to push for a verifiable international treaty forbidding the production of nuclear materials for atomic weapons. That would freeze the current balance of power in place – Russia and the U.S. currently possess around 95 percent of the world’s nuclear armaments – and effectively prohibit the ascendance of new nuclear powers.

    5. The United States government wants to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). First and foremost, that will forbid the enrichment of uranium (including for purposes like the production of fuel for nuclear power plants) for any country that doesn’t already possess nuclear weapons. Supplies to such nations would be controlled by an “international bank” for nuclear fuel that would be overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a branch of the United Nations.

    6. Any breach of “the rules” (especially of the increasingly restrictive NPT rules) would bring obligatory punishment in the future. The purpose of this is to put a set of general rules in place that could be easily invoked to prevent countries like Russia and China from interfering in any aggressive punitive action against Iran or North Korea sought by the U.S., and would circumvent any lengthy international negotiations and discussions.

    7. There must be certainty that terrorists will never gain access to nuclear weapons. To accomplish this, Obama wants to “secure” all “vulnerable nuclear material.” This is aimed primarily at Russia (but also at Pakistan), where the U.S. would like very much to gain greater access to and control over fissionable materials. In addition, he seeks stepped-up action to prevent the illegal trade of nuclear material. Obama has announced he will seek a “nuclear security summit” to be held this coming year in the U.S.

    The next NPT Review Conference, scheduled for early 2010, will be an even more important event in connection with all this. The NPT prescribes such conferences every five years, to be attended by all signatories to the treaty. The last one took place in May 2005, and lasted nearly a month. As early as that meeting, the U.S. and several of its allies attempted to force through several major changes to the treaty under the guise of “strengthening the NPT”, which would have worked to the detriment of those countries that possess no nuclear arsenals.

    The centerpiece of the change was America’s attempt to forbid any uranium enrichment, as well as the processing of waste material from nuclear reactors, in any country that didn’t already have such technology and wasn’t already involved in such processing. Both are part of the civilian use of atomic energy, and the practice of doing both are guaranteed to signatories by Article IV of the NPT as “ inalienable rights.” On the other hand, both technologies could be used in the production of nuclear weaponry.

    Regular inspections by the IAEA would ensure that material wasn’t used in this manner. To avoid such control and inspection, a nation would have to deny IAEA inspectors access to facilities and withdraw from the NPT, something North Korea has already done twice. In reality, withdrawal is made extremely easy by Article X of the NPT: A nation need only cite “extraordinary circumstances” that are not defined in the treaty and give 90 days notice prior to withdrawal.

    Red herring

    As an instrument intended to prevent other nations from becoming nuclear powers, the NPT was recognized to be a relatively ineffective instrument, already rife with loopholes, right from its creation in the 1960s. In order to understand that, one first has to realize that the treaty created two separate and very unequal classes of nations signing on to it. On the one side, the group consisted of those nations that had already “successfully” produced nuclear weapons and tested at least one of them prior to the deadline of January 1, 1967. On the other side, were the vast majority of nations that now were obligated to refrain from doing likewise, just because they signed the treaty.

    They swallowed that pill with the help of a “sweetener”, not only guaranteeing them free access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes – albeit under the watchful eye of the IAEA – but with the understanding that they would also receive generous support and “know-how” from the nuclear powers (Article IV, 2). The concessions used to lure non-nuclear armed nations into signing the treaty also included uncomplicated future withdrawal procedures and a rather weak control system that has meanwhile been strengthened via voluntary amendments between the IAEA and individual nations.

    Thirteen nations currently operate enrichment facilities: Argentina, Brazil, China, Germany, France, Great Britain, India, Iran, Japan, Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia and the United States. Presumably, Israel belongs on this list, despite the fact that its nuclear program is officially kept strictly secret. All other nations are forbidden to enrich uranium, according to the U.S. policy set by George W. Bush. The U.S. and its allies also place special restrictions on Iran, which already possesses advanced knowledge of enrichment technology and has been ordered to shut down and destroy all its enrichment facilities. Further tightening of NPT requirements deal with making withdrawal from the treaty more difficult and introducing a mandatory system of punishment for infractions.

    Will the U.S. be able to force through its plans for treaty “strengthening” in the coming year? That’s uncertain. According to Article VIII-2, any modification to the treaty requires approval by a majority of the signatories. That would be a probable certainty. But, in addition to that, all nations possessing nuclear weapons have to concur, as must all 35 members of the Board of Governors of the IAEA. Except for nations possessing nuclear weapons, membership on this board is on a rotational basis. The United States government will first try to reach agreement with Russia and China, both of which agree in principle to limiting the number of nations with nuclear weapons technology. In addition, Russia, in cooperation with Kazakhstan, strives to be the sole source for nuclear reactor fuel to whom future customers (i.e., those nations forbidden by the treaty from enriching their own uranium) will be obliged to go. The Russian government, with its close ties to energy companies, is of course very interested in such a modification of the NPT.

    With his propaganda line, “a world without nuclear weapons,” Obama is attempting, among other things, to rebut the argument made until now by the NPT Review Conference, namely, that in the 40 years the treaty has been in force, the nuclear powers haven’t really tried seriously to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons. Besides that, Obama may be driven by a motive similar to that motivating Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, when he suddenly escalated military action in Vietnam while simultaneously pushing for the NPT: The operative term is “red herring.”

    From Article
    Purely Contrived Propaganda

    By Knut Mellenthin

    Analysis: Obama’s “world without nuclear weapons” is a deceptive package.

  4. Anonymous
    April 15, 2009

    Talk of nuclear disarmament naïve, counterproductive

    Very good points

  5. Anonymous
    April 9, 2009

    No Nukes? No Thanks must be mentioned that Nukes deter massive scale wars

  6. Anonymous
    April 5, 2009

    Chinese Develop Special “Kill Weapon” to Destroy U.S. Aircraft Carriers better keep its Nukes sharp and tell these de-necular clowns to take a hike on the double.Chinese threat looms large

  7. Anonymous
    March 25, 2009

    May be they armed pak to use it a leverage in de-nuking india. Think about it. (Trust No One)

  8. Anonymous
    March 24, 2009

    Hasn’t India already built at least three reprocessing plants all on its own? I have not come across any credible report that indicates that India’s reprocessing plants do not work or are defective. Then why does it hanker after reprocessing technology from France or Russia or anywhere else?

  9. Anonymous
    March 24, 2009

    The reports at the links below would tell that the US is the prime facilitator of the Paki nukes proliferation.Let MS Tauscher explain why the whistle blowers, Richard Barlow and the Turkish translator were gagged and punished by the American authorities, as described in the reports at the following links :

  10. kuldeep singh chauhan
    March 23, 2009

    It’s not only the uranium fuel but more about the restricted tech not available to India in open market.. probably political dispensation of the day knew that uranium for next 40 years is available but they harped on clean energy and fuel shortage for public consumption because everybody has hidden agendas and diplomacy should NOT be conducted in public…. the deal gives India access to crucial dual use technologies available with only US… reprocessing tech and fuel etc can be and has been nevertheless been procured from russia france etc… Kazakhstan(inimical to US and India friendly ) is third biggest producer of uranium and out of NSG same with Namibia(good relations with india) so we concluded an agreement with them and fuel security is taken care of apart from our own sufficient reserves… deals with france and russia complete with reprocessing rights and all the bells and whistles have been completed.. overall we have conceded almost nothing, freed up our limited uranium deposits for dedicated millitary programme or nukes, agreement with kazhak french and russian govts gives right to store uranium fuel on indian soil and ironclad reactor lifetime guarantee of fuel supply, a very weak vague AP with IAEA for inspections on our terms, no effect on FBR programme,no restriction on thorium research, no restriction on domestic nuke activities research weapons or otherwise, access to restricted technologies, with India specific agreement prestige and power in global arena, global certificate of our exemplary non-pro record, legitimizes candidacy of UNSC because now non-pro ayatollahs won’t be harping on Obduracy of indians gatecrashing the P5 party, De-facto recognition as 6th nuke weapon power…etc etc so the deal from every angle has been beneficial and is a feather in cap of Dr. MMS,Anil kakodkar and indian negotiators.

  11. captainjohann
    March 23, 2009

    The key is reprocessing rights and also the additional protocol which India signed with IAEA rather quietly.US doesnot want India to go ahead with FBTR but wants to buy its thorium reactor for the UNSAFEGUARDED area at Kalpakkam!!!

  12. Anonymous
    March 22, 2009

    Anonymous at 8:50 PM, please consider this:At a time when it wanted to “punish” India for daring to conduct the Pokhran I tests and subsequently nonchalantly carry out a repeat performance with Pokhran II, US successfully arm-twisted both France and Russia, among other countries, into forming the NSG cartel with the sole aim of denying nuclear and dual-use technologies to India. US was able to bulldoze its way on this issue even though both France and Russia had (and apparently still have) friendly relationship with India – including in the area of nuclear technology – as one of the pillars of their foreign policy; and, even as the cold-war between US and Russia (then Soviet Union) was at its peak. To me this signifies that France and Russia saw, at least at that time, some merit / self-interest in toeing the US line to a large extent.So, I do believe that when seemingly “giving-in” to India’s quest for satisfying its phantasies for imports from “phoren”, the Bush Administration would have had a fall-back plan-B whereby, the US can badger France and Russia once again (or, may be this time, by more brazenly threatening India directly of dire consequences) should India refuse to play ball with it as per rules dictated by it.The idea that with the recent NSG clearance, India will be able to side-step US impositions and get what it wants from France and/or Russia could hence turnout to be a naive one. (I think the same point has also been made by Anonymous at 1.29 AM.) We have perhaps not heard all that is to be heard on this issue, yet. By the way, according to the recent CAG report, India does not need to import fuel for the next 40 years to run its heavy water reactors (HWRs) and many persons having domain knowledge on this subject, seem to agree with it. However, for the sake of this discussion, let us assume that India wants to import fuel for its reactors (natural uranium for HWRs and low enriched uranium for Tarapur LWRs), to tide over some unforeseen short-term supply deficit. But, here comes the big question: During the past several decades, for its HWRs, starting from natural uranium <><>ore<><>, India has been making full-fledged fuel rods (which contain the India-made uranium pellets) that go into the reactors. Likewise, reactor grade fuel rods for the LWRs, have been made in India, importing only the raw material, that is, enriched uranium-fluoride gas. Therefore there is no question that within the country there are both the requisite technology and capacity, in the “civilian” side, for all activities involved in fuel manufacture except for enrichment. Then why does India feel compelled to contract for manufactured uranium <><>pellets<><> from France or Russia? The adage that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’ seems to be coming true in this instance at least.

  13. Anonymous
    March 22, 2009

    I think the tussle will be whether Europe & Russia and other major consumers like China & India can influence the nuclear energy consumption/production landscape or whether US can create revolution with green energy (even as it tries to frame policies to cement its leadership and monopolies in advanced nuclear technologies). Non-proliferation will be subservient to main policy of maintaining energy leadership.

  14. Anonymous
    March 22, 2009

    This was definitely expected considering that US admin. wants to revive US economy with green energy jobs. A strident non-proliferation agenda fits in well with that PR/image. Apart from the 2010 NPT Review conference I think her appointment is motivated mainly by expiry of START-1 treaty with Russia in Dec 2009. US cannot afford to continue the arms race.

  15. Anonymous
    March 22, 2009

    We're quick to blame the US administration & its bureaucracy. India is equally susceptible to similar idiosyncrasies based on which political party is in power. Imagine a third front government coming to power and we may not only trash the nuke deal but also start importing cow dung from China to light up our country for this century.Without the US nod, India cannot get access to sensitive technologies from ‘any’ country. We've to learn to live with any administration that is in power in Washington.

  16. Aditya Singh
    March 21, 2009

    Any deal with US always has strings attached. This is the way their bureaucracy has been trained to work. Since independency we have refused to get into international ageements that can be detrimental to our independent world view. India needs to be cautious as ever when dealing with US. Can a leapord change its spots?

  17. Anonymous
    March 21, 2009

    Note that this just affects reactors from US. Anyway in all its honesty India never thought it was possible to do business with US in this front. So nuclear deal is very much intact and useful as far as France, Russia, Kazakhstan etc are concerned. Realistically India just needs fuel for next 40 years and thats all! We will have Thorium reactors by then.

  18. Anonymous
    March 21, 2009

    India should just wait out these fools out. They will be gone soon enough.

  19. Anonymous
    March 21, 2009

    I guess we can forget about reprocesing rights and the future US reactors. In the end nuke deal is it worth anything?

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 21, 2009 by in Nuclear Issues, U.S. Policy in South Asia.



%d bloggers like this: