Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Obama administration wants India to sign NPT

By linking the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty to the goal of ending “arms race” in South Asia, Washington’s key arms control negotiator waves another red rag in India’s face…

7 May 2009
The Hindu

Obama administration wants India to sign NPT

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: In a foretaste of the changing nuclear atmospherics emanating from Washington, a senior American envoy told an international conference on Tuesday that getting India to sign the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) “remains a fundamental objective of the United States.”

Signing the NPT would be tantamount to India giving up its nuclear weapons, a goal that Washington has not seriously pressed for nearly a decade.

Though the Bush administration didn’t explicitly abandon universal adherence to the treaty as an objective, the demand was never made that India sign the NPT, at least not after the landmark July 2005 Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement. Just prior to that, at the May 2005 Review Conference (RevCon) of state parties to the NPT, the U.S. said it “hope[d] countries still outside [the NPT] will join the Treaty, which they can do only as non-nuclear weapon states” but stopped short of naming any countries.

On May 5, however, Assistant Secretary of State for verification, compliance and implementation, Rose Gottemoeller, went full tilt in her prepared statement for the NPT prepcom for the 2010 RevCon, not just naming India but equating its status with Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. The fact that this was done without any reference to, or defence of, the India exception that Washington sought and achieved at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Suppliers Group last year has raised eyebrows in New Delhi.

The central principle embodied in the July 2005 agreement was that India would indefinitely maintain unsafeguarded, non-civilian nuclear facilities.

Equally galling for New Delhi was the South Asian tilt Ms. Gottemoeller gave to the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). Such a treaty, she said, could help destabilising arms races in regions such as South Asia. India does not accept this regional linkage, preferring to see an international agreement banning the production of nuclear weapon-making material as a step in the direction of universal disarmament.

By way of contrast, the French statement at the same conference, which also spoke of universality, at least acknowledged the reality that India was abiding by non-proliferation norms. “Until [universal adherence] is completed, we must get now, through dialogue, India, Israel and Pakistan to come as close as possible to the international standards for non-proliferation and export control,” its ambassador said, adding, “Progress has been made in this direction, especially by India, but much effort remains to be done.”

In fairness to the Obama administration, the U.S. statement to the 2007 NPT prepcom also said it was important to reaffirm the importance of achieving universality of the NPT. But this theme did not figure anywhere in the American stand at the prepcom last year.

Taking President Barack Obama’s recent remarks in Prague on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty one step further, the U.S. envoy said that not only will American ratification be immediately and aggressively pursued but Washington will also launch a diplomatic effort to bring on board the other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force.

India is among the handful of countries whose ratification is needed. The others include Pakistan, China and Iran.

Though the idea of India signing the NPT is absurd, Indian officials say it would not be wise to dismiss the latest American statement out of hand. Hundred days into the Obama administration, the absence of any public defence of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal at an international forum suggests a lower level of commitment to the agreement than the Bush administration displayed. “The question is how does Mr. Obama come at India”, a senior official told The Hindu. “If he is going to look at India through the NPT-non NPT prism, then there is a problem”.

What also worries the Indian side is the impact the new U.S. attitude will have on other countries. “When the Americans start saying something, you can expect the international chorus to begin”, the official said.

Though the heavy lifting on the nuclear deal has already been done, some loose ends still remain for India to deal with. The NSG, for example, is still considering a total ban on the sale of enrichment and reprocessing equipment for non-NPT signatories, something the exemption last year did not prohibit.

On Monday, the NSG troika of Germany, Hungary and South Africa will hold consultations with Indian officials in New Delhi, the first such meeting since the 45-nation cartel decided to allow nuclear commerce with India last September.

11 comments on “Obama administration wants India to sign NPT

  1. Anonymous
    June 7, 2009

    what these nutcases fail to realize is that Indian’s nuclear arsenal is a deterrant against China as well! Most of India’s defense policy now focuses on China rather than Pakistan. As long as China has nuke weapons, you can forget any disarmament treaties with India. Moreover, we have thorium based reactors and as well as the nuke deal with US, which enabled us to make exceptions for us in NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group). So, democRATs should stop hyphenating India and Pakistan and think India will bend over for appease Osama’s …oops Obama’s policies!

  2. Anonymous
    May 26, 2009

    So to ask India to unilaterally stop developing additional nuclear material and to go into arms control talks with Pakistan and China is unrealistic. Do you really think that China wants to have arms control discussions? China is a major security concern for India . India’s military calculus is as much centered on China as Pakistan. It is not in indian security intrest to give up nuke weapons or their future upgrades.

  3. Anonymous
    May 14, 2009

    West armed pak to use it as leverage to dis-arm india. Offcourse their game must fail.

  4. Anonymous
    May 14, 2009

    How the West summoned up a nuclear nightmare in Pakistan

  5. Anonymous
    May 12, 2009

    Pakistan expanding its nuclear capability

  6. Anonymous
    May 10, 2009

    I really find it difficult to understand why democratic administration in US always tries to put some unrealistic conditions on India. This means right from the day one it will be a non-starter with the new US administration.

  7. Anonymous
    May 9, 2009

    Tell Zero to take a Hike and get China to Give up its nuke first.

  8. Anonymous
    May 8, 2009

    After the American statement, the British statement of May 7 < HREF="" REL="nofollow">also names India<>:

    “Let me state unequivocally our commitment to the universalisation of the NPT and call on those states, India, Israel and Pakistan, that have not signed to do so as Non-Nuclear Weapon States”.

    [U.K. Cluster II statement]

    The British Cluster II statements in the last two prepcoms did not name India though they repeated the formulation that all states that had not signed the NPT should do so as NNWS.

  9. Siddharth
    May 8, 2009

    @ Ambassador

    1. The NSG/IAEA parts of the nuclear deal are over and done with. They cannot be now killed or reversed easily by anyone.

    2. The reproccessing part of the 123 agreement with the US remains to be worked out and may get stuck but India can live with it. It just won’t buy any American reactors.

    3. Amb. Gottemoeller’s statement is worth noting because it seems to be part of a new pattern of signals from the Obama people, and not a product of the usual attitude of an N5. Also, it is one thing to answer a question asked of you (‘Should India sign the NPT?’), and another to say something up front in a statement. She did defend the nuclear deal with India when reporters asked her about it later. But it would have been nicer to have had that in the speech and the universality bit come in a Q and A, the way it would have been 2005-2008! That said, there’s no reason to panic.
    4. FMCT and CTBT heat will be there but nothing that cannot be faced.

  10. A former India ambassador to the UN
    May 8, 2009

    The fact is, even if you had asked an Assistant Secretary of State
    during the Bush era the answer would have been that India should sign the NPT. The Russians say it all the time. The fundamental position is the same for all the nuclear weapon states, particularly on the eve of
    the next NPT review. But the point is that India is being given
    exceptional treatment and that will continue. People are forgetting the agreements with France and Russia.

    Of course, the Obama agenda on nuclear matters will cause some
    headaches to India in the coming months.

  11. Anonymous
    May 7, 2009

    Quote “Equally galling for New Delhi was the South Asian tilt Ms. Gottemoeller gave to the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT)”.

    While I agree with the sentiments expressed by you, the above ‘galling’ attitude is not just the Americans’ it is also the official policy of our friendly and nice totalitarian neighbors to the north and its stooges in India too.

    It is always ‘South Asia’ that needs to do away with nuclear stuff. If it is such a good idea, why not the entire world? Or atleast all of Asia?!

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This entry was posted on May 7, 2009 by in Nuclear Issues, U.S. Policy in South Asia.



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