The Washington based Arms Control Association (ACA) has asked nuclear exporting countries to flatly reject "as unsound and irresponsible" a US proposal to exempt India from the group's guidelines without any additional conditions.
"One of the most notable and troublesome features" of the US proposal is the weak and very ambiguous language in section 2, which is ostensibly meant to outline what India has done that qualifies it for a special exemption from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)guidelines, says the ACA Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball.
The arms control lobby which has consistently opposed the India-US nuclear deal on Wednesday published what it described as the US proposal to exempt India from existing nuclear trade restrictions maintained by the 45-member NSG. The NSG is due to meet Aug 20-21 in Vienna for an extraordinary plenary meeting to discuss the US proposal to facilitate the India-US civil nuclear deal and may convene again to vote on the initiative as early as September.
The implementing 123 agreement can be sent to the US Congress for ratification only after it gets NSG clearance.
The current US proposal would simply "recognize" India's commitments and actions that were outlined in the July 2005 joint statement by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Kimball said in an accompanying analysis.
Section 3 would allow individual NSG members to engage in a full range of nuclear trade with India without any legally or politically meaningful requirement that would link nuclear trade with India to implementation and compliance with the commitments and actions mentioned in section 2, he said.
The proposal would only require that: "Participating Government shall maintain contact and consult through regular channels on matters connected with the implementation of the Guidelines, taking into account relevant international commitments and bilateral agreements with India."
"This is a much weaker formulation than the already weak March 2006 US draft proposal," Kimball said.
According to ACA the earlier draft stated that: "Participating Governments may transfer trigger list items and/or related technology to the safeguarded civil nuclear facilities in India ...as long as the participating Government intending to make the transfer is satisfied that India continues to fully meet all of the aforementioned non-proliferation and safeguards commitments, and all other requirements of the NSG Guidelines."
The current US proposal would leave it up to each individual NSG participant to decide whether India is or is not meeting these weak standards and loose commitments before they sell nuclear technology and materials, possibly including technologies the US would not be willing to sell, to India, Kimball said.
To be effective, the NSG's guidelines must establish clear and unambiguous terms and conditions for the initiation of nuclear trade and possible termination of nuclear trade with recipient states, he said.
In essence, the Bush administration is proposing an NSG rule-change that would not only erode rules-based efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, but it would also allow other states to interpret or ignore the India-specific NSG guideline as they see fit and undermine how US lawmakers would like to see such a rule applied, Kimball said.
For instance, Russia has already shown its blatant disregard for existing NSG guidelines by re-supplying India's two Tarapur light-water reactors in 2001 and 2006.
Section 4 of the proposal stating that "Participation of India in the decisions regarding proposed amendments will facilitate their implementation by India" would effectively give India a veto over future NSG decisions even though it is not a member of the NSG, he said.
Calling the Bush administration's proposed India-specific exemption as "a non-proliferation disaster that could effectively end the NSG as a meaningful entity," Kimball said: "the current US proposal should be flatly rejected by other NSG member states as unsound and irresponsible."
If NSG states agree under pressure from an outgoing US administration to blow a hole in NSG guidelines in order to allow a few states to profit from reactor and nuclear fuel and technology sales to India, they should at a minimum, support "common sense restrictions and conditions on such trade" he said.
The conditions suggested by Kimball include:
* NSG states should establish a policy that if India resumes nuclear testing, or violates its safeguards agreements, trade involving nuclear items with India should be terminated and unused fuel supplies should be returned;
* NSG states should expressly prohibit any transfer of sensitive reprocessing, enrichment, or heavy water production items or technology;
* NSG states should actively oppose any arrangement that would give India any special safeguards exemptions that would in any way be inconsistent with the principle of permanent safeguards over all nuclear materials and facilities.
*NSG states should not take any decision unless India and the IAEA conclude a meaningful Additional Protocol to supplement its new facility specific safeguards agreement;
* Before India is granted a waiver from the NSG's full-scope safeguards standards, NSG states should call upon it to join with four of the five original nuclear-weapon states in declaring that it has stopped fissile material production and call upon India to transform its nuclear test moratorium pledge into a legally binding pledge, perhaps by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.