Saturday, November 18, 2006

US and China Pour Nuclear Fuel onto India-Pakistan Rivalry

Jotman readers might recall that I condemned (here and here) the US-India nuclear pact as I watched Bush announce it live on CNN. It's a fitting irony that on day the US Congress passes this treaty to supply India's "civilian" nuclear reactors, the president of China should offer Pakistan a similar deal to accelerate the building of its nuclear power plants.

The US deal with India will allow companies like GE and Westinghouse to sell reactor equipment to India. It is also touted as consolidating a US-Indian "alliance."

According to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the US is not supposed to be supporting the nuclear program of country such as India that is not signatory to the treaty. Recall that India built and tested nukes outside of the international protocol. Reuters observed:
Opponents contend the agreement harms U.S. security by allowing New Delhi to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal, by fostering an arms race in Asia among India and nuclear rivals Pakistan and China and by undermining decades of U.S. non-proliferation policy.
Whereas the treaty with India is touted by many in DC as "Bush's greatest foreign policy successes," as I see it as a clear-cut case of the US having abandoned any claim to be abiding by principle in international affairs. The "rationale" for the Indian deal is simply that an alliance with India on nuclear energy serves certain US business and narrowly defined strategic interests. The "excuse" for the deal is that India is also a democracy. How this looks to the rest of the world evidently does not matter in Washington. It's another case of a headstrong America acting to further the commercial and geopolitical interests of US companies, with complete disregard for the wider global ramifications.

The US Senate passed the treaty with the stipulation that India support US efforts to block Iran's nuclear ambitions. Again, sticking an ammendment onto a treaty at the last minute -- to shore up the far more important policy goal comprimised by the treaty itself -- is an appallingly poor substitute for real vision in addressing the proliferation crisis.

The bottom line is that because the most powerful nation on earth insists on keeping thousands of nukes it does not need -- to no apparent constructive ends -- the US sends the message to the rising powers of Asia that their is something prestigious about owning nukes. Today, hundreds of millions of barely literate Indians and Pakistanis feel tremendous pride in the knowledge that their nations possess nuclear weapons. No doubt one reason chemical or biological weapons do not enjoy a high reputation is that the US, the USSR, and most other nations long ago disavowed them. By continuing to hold largest stockpile, the US legitimates nuclear weapons as a symbol of nations and governments aspiring to appear advanced and powerful.

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