A dozen nuclear experts have sent a letter under the umbrella of a Washington think tank to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Mohamed ElBaradei criticising his statements of support for the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The experts charge that ElBaradei's promotion of the deal is "surprising and disappointing" because it requires breaking with existing US and international nuclear trade rules and undermines global efforts to stop the spread and build-up of nuclear arms, according to a press release from the Arms Control Association (ACA).
"ElBaradei has been a long-time champion for nuclear disarmament and an outspoken critic of nuclear double standards, which is why his endorsement of the Indo-US deal is so puzzling and upsetting," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and one of the letter signatories.
Also signing the letter sent on Monday were several former high-level US government nuclear experts, including John Holum, former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security during the Clinton administration, and Norm Wulf, who from 1999 to 2002 served as the president's special representative for nuclear non-proliferation.
ElBaradei's support for creating exceptions to established rules and practices "betrays" two principled positions he has long advocated, according to the experts.
ElBaradei has argued for universal progress toward nuclear disarmament and against double standards for nuclear weapons haves and have-nots.
The Indo-US deal, however, would provide India nuclear trade benefits reserved for countries that have forsworn nuclear weapons or those legally bound to give them up; neither of which is true of India.
"India is moving in the opposite direction," according to the experts. Their letter notes that under the proposed US-India nuclear deal the supply of foreign nuclear fuel to India "would, in fact, add to its nuclear weapons capability by freeing up its existing and limited domestic capacity to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium exclusively for weapons".
Although ElBaradei and other proponents of the deal contend it will strengthen the non-proliferation regime, the experts disagree.
They write that the deal will be an "added burden on the already stretched resources" of the IAEA, while "securing no meaningful constraint on the growth of India's nuclear weapons stockpile".
To help remedy the deal's shortcomings, the experts recommend that India halt the production of the key ingredients for making nuclear weapons before the deal is enacted.
"The Indo-US deal is not an effective way to restructure the [nuclear non-proliferation treaty] system and would lead to the further unravelling of the basic security bargain established between the nuclear haves and have-nots," the experts conclude.