Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Sign NPT, accept full safeguards, U.S. wants U.N. to tell India

Obama nonproliferation resolution in Security Council has no place for India exception…

16 September 2009
The Hindu

Sign NPT, accept full safeguards, U.S. wants U.N. to tell India

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: In a measure of how the official line in Washington on India’s nuclear status has changed from the Bush to the Obama administrations, the U.S. is circulating a draft U.N. Security Council resolution calling, inter alia, for all Indian nuclear facilities to be placed under international safeguards and not just those that have been declared “civilian” under the July 2005 Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement.

The ostensible rationale for the resolution President Barack Obama would like adopted at the special UNSC session he will chair on September 24 is to demonstrate the seriousness of his stated commitment to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

But there is a sting in the tail for India: For the first time since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force, the UNSC is going to demand that all states outside the treaty sign it immediately or begin adhering to its provisions.

The only other time the UNSC has adopted such a prescriptive demand for a country or group of countries that never accepted the treaty was in 1998, when it passed resolution 1172 urging India and Pakistan to sign the NPT as well as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the wake of the nuclear tests both countries conducted in May that year.

Since then, 1172 has been treated by the international community, and the U.S. in particular, as a dead letter as far as India is concerned.

Indeed, the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement, followed by the Indian safeguards agreement at the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers group exemption was meant to underline Washington’s desire to treat as irrelevant India’s non-adherence to the NPT.

Of special concern to India, therefore, is the third operational paragraph of Mr. Obama’s proposed resolution, which says the U.N.: “Calls upon all States that are not Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to join the Treaty so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and in any case to adhere to its terms;”.

For a country like India, that is not a party to the NPT and did not explode a nuclear device prior to 1968, the phrase “to join the treaty… and in any case to adhere to its terms” essentially means it should open up all nuclear facilities for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency so that the latter can ensure that Indian reactors and fissile material stocks are not being used for weapons purposes.

Preambular paragraph 15 also reaffirms “all other relevant non-proliferation resolutions adopted by the Security Council,” an implicit reference to Resolution 1172.

Taken together, these references to India may lack enforceability but they do signal a quiet return to the “roll back” rhetoric and discourse of the Clinton era, before President George W. Bush pushed for India to be made an exception to the requirements of the NPT-related non-proliferation architecture.

Over the past few months, U.S. administration officials have revived the push for NPT universality at various international forums and sought to get the G8 to back a ban on enrichment and reprocessing technology sales to countries like India that have not signed the treaty.

Though these moves have been accompanied by statements of support for the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and the beginning of talks on reprocessing, the repeated foregrounding of the NPT suggests growing American impatience with the Bush administration premise that India’s nuclear credentials warrant it being placed in a category different from Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Other provisions

The draft resolution also contains a range of other provisions on the CTBT, the permanence of safeguards and so on, as well explicitly requiring that all situations of “noncompliance with non-proliferation obligations” be brought to the UNSC which would then determine whether this non-compliance was a threat to international peace and security.

The only reference the resolution makes to the actual abolition of nuclear weapons is its call for all NPT and non-NPT members to undertake to pursue good faith negotiations on “a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” By clubbing together non-NPT states with all NPT states (i.e. both the nuclear and non-nuclear), this formulation avoids extending de facto recognition to the nuclear weapon status of India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

4 comments on “Sign NPT, accept full safeguards, U.S. wants U.N. to tell India

  1. Anonymous
    September 24, 2009

    Nuclear-free world not realistic, because we are humans. Some want it to rule the world , others wants it to prevent others form ruling their world. Like it or not if one has such weapons others will want it too, nukes are here to stay.

  2. Anonymous
    September 22, 2009

    Why are we worried so much about possible denial of ENR technology transfer to India. Isn't that defeatist. Why should we assume or concede that the only way we can have this technology is through knowledge transfer from other developed countries. Why can't we develop these on our own. We can't ride the coat-tails of others to a better power status.

    Why is our government still stuck with the Nehru era socialist policies. The DRDO has a monopoly over the defence development in our country.

    Every year we bleed thousands of talented engineers to the U.S. I work along side many engineers from the IITs. And, the guys are stand-out brilliant. Why would they go work for some poor paying and politically stratified organisation like the DRDO, when they can find higher paying jobs at Google and microsoft.

    My question is this. Why can't India have its own Military industrial complex. The likes of Boeing and lockheed may profitier on taxpayer's money. But they also gave the U.S military the apache gunship.

  3. Anonymous
    September 18, 2009

    You must have surely followed the proceedings of the IAEA General conference. DG-Designate Amano and US Ambassador Chu made statements. I invite your observations.

  4. Anonymous
    September 16, 2009


    Do you think India will achieve a nuclear power status, and countries like China will believe India to have credible nuclear deterrent.

    I am losing hope. I think India has missed the bus already and the country's attention is so focused on the economy that it may neither be economically strong nor otherwise.

    We as a nation are so scared to face the grave need to build a strong defence. If not scared, then is it just plain ignorance?

    What do you think? Has India missed the bus?

    What is alarming is not so much what the US wants but callous we are a nation even about facing the real challenges to our soverignity?

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This entry was posted on September 16, 2009 by in Nuclear Issues.



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