India misused Canadian technology to build its first nuclear bomb. It has brushed aside Canada’s objections to this ever since. But Canada should still support the U.S.-India nuclear deal

This week’s Economist urges the countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to turn down the U.S. request to waive restrictions against nuclear trade with India. India refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is officially the main international bulwark against the spread of nuclear weapons. Relaxing the restrictions against nuclear trade with non-signatories—the very rules around which the NSG was created—makes a mockery of the international anti-proliferation regime. Or so says The Economist (see article).

Really? The biggest threats to the international anti-proliferation regime have actually come from NPT signatories—Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Libya—in collaboration with another non-signatory, Pakistan. Whether Pakistan’s collaboration with these rogue states was officially sanctioned or not is still to be determined. Regardless, if the U.S. were pushing for trade with Pakistan instead of India, then Pakistan’s refusal to sign the NPT would be a relevant argument against such a deal. But the deal is with India, and there is obviously a world of difference between India and the other countries just mentioned.

Nobody, least of all Canada, is happy about how India got its bomb. But nobody can say India has facilitated the nuclear activities of countries like Iran or North Korea. They, not India, are the problem. Recognizing India as a de facto nuclear weapons state only formalizes a situation that will continue, recognition or no recognition, whether we like it or not. Having India a member of the weapons club strengthens diplomatic opposition to Iran and other miscreants. Refusing to recognize her as such keeps her out in the cold, and does nothing to address the Irans of the world.

Canada has made its point, for more than three decades. It is time to move on. Anti-proliferation efforts can be stepped up, beginning with strengthening IAEA safeguards. The world appears poised on the brink of a renaissance in civilian nuclear power. The light water power reactor (LWR) will play a major role in this. Iran’s claim of legitimacy in its nuclear program is based on the peaceful status most of the international nuclear community has bestowed on the LWR. To close this loophole and prevent future Irans, the IAEA should monitor nuclear facilities with cameras, in real time, to detect diversions of spent fuel.

2 comments for “India misused Canadian technology to build its first nuclear bomb. It has brushed aside Canada’s objections to this ever since. But Canada should still support the U.S.-India nuclear deal

  1. September 1, 2008 at 11:19

    It certainly is time to move on! Canada and India could do a lot by working together to develop proliferation resistant nuclear power technology. And basing this cooperation on reality is a good idea too. Liquid fueled, thorium consuming, and very hot reactors should be the objective of such collaboration – the reality is that India has thorium. Another reality is that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not be stopped by a technical fix here and a regulation change there. If humans can view criminal activity as something that is personally beneficial, then there will be an illicit weapons market. So we need to do some reality based thinking here about justice, poverty, pride, ignorance, and the limitations of our minds that evolved in the forest and now have to live in the cosmos. Personally I like proposals that offer free nuclear power to nations that can prove that they do not have weapons. I guess you can tell that I dont make my living by digging up coal.

  2. September 1, 2008 at 12:24

    It is refreshing to read Steve Alpin’s Blog urging Canada to support the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal. It is one of the few commentaries based on factual, rational, and pragmatic geopolitical considerations. It does not regurgitate the arguments put forth by emotional hysterics whose views are not only far removed from reality, but also lack the strategic insight that President Bush and Secretary of State Rice have shown in crafting the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal.

    The deal has been developed over time, with careful consideration given to the history, culture, and the energy-environment-political policy choices of the Indian leadership. Alpin rightly points out, “the biggest threats to the international anti-proliferation regime have actually come from NPT signatories—Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Libya—in collaboration with another non-signatory, Pakistan.” Those opposing the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal often write as though India is actively engaged in proliferating nuclear technology by collaborating with rogue states. Articles such as “Time to Decide,” the blather published in the print edition of the Economist, August 28, 2008, are often short-sighted and based on faulty logic, erroneous and misleading of socio-political-economic rationale. Such articles often deliberately and intentionally portray India as a country that is not honorable and trustworthy as a strategic partner.

    The differentiating factor between these journalists on one hand and Bush-Rice on the other hand is that the latter are strategic thinkers. They can look far into the future and bring dissenting partners into their fold, thereby creating a world order that is more stable and harmonious. That is the mark of their leadership. Alpin’s point, “Having India a member of the weapons club strengthens diplomatic opposition to Iran and other miscreants. Refusing to recognize her as such keeps her out in the cold, and does nothing to address the Irans of the world“ is well taken. By far, it is one of the best opinions I have read on the topic. I applaud Steve Alpin for his honest, straightforward, and far-sighted political-economic-strategic insight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *