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'Indo-US deal violates NPT article'

An NPT article prohibits members from assisting or inducing any non-nuclear state to acquire weapons.

india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 11:06 IST

The proposed Indo-US civil nuclear agreement violates an article of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibits members from assisting or inducing any non-nuclear weapon state to acquire nuclear weapons, a group of non-proliferation experts have claimed.

In a letter to members of the Congress, the experts also flayed the state department for a "narrow construct" of the NPT and argued that "India may not have to comply with the Treaty, but the US, as a signatory to it, has a solemn responsibility not only to discourage proliferation by others but to refrain from assisting other states' nuclear weapons programme in any way."

"The current proposal would breach this central provision of the treaty," the letter pointed out.

The proposed Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement violates Article One of the NPT and for the State Department to have come to the conclusion that the accord is not a violation of the NPT is not correct as Foggy Bottom "construes the meaning of the NPT so narrowly as to render it meaningless", the specialists said in the letter.

The letter to Members of Congress was distributed to participants at a symposium on the United States India Nuclear Deal at the Arms Control Association.

Article One of the NPT, the non-proliferationists have told law makers, prohibits members from assisting, encouraging or inducing any non-nuclear weapon state manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

"How would US Nuclear aid violate the NPT? Foreign nuclear fuel supplies would free up India's limited domestic nuclear fuel making capacity to produce highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. By the Indian government's own admission, its military and civil nuclear programmes are "inextricably" linked, so if we assist one, we assist the other," the specialists have told lawmakers.

"Since the proposed deal also accepts the legitimacy of India's nuclear weapons programme, it would effectively encourage India to continue in that direction", the letter said.

"The administration has tried to downplay these points by emphasising the strategic advantages of partnership with India. Administration official contend that failure to accede to India on the nuclear issues would threaten the whole arrangement," the letter said.

"Yet India's foreign secretary recently acknowledged that the deal may not get by the Congress and this would not affect closer ties with the US. The main point is that our strategic interests dictates that we should not discard our non proliferation policy and our Treaty obligations. To do so would only enfeeble our case against NPT violators," the signatories warned lawmakers.

June 20 is being circulated to law makers at a time when both the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are due for the Mark Up of the legislation sometime next week so as to have some finality on the agreement by the end of summer.

The letter was signed by several scholars, including Thomas Cochran of the Natural Resource Defense Council Nuclear Programme, Victor Gilinksy a former Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission among others.