WILPF Statement on the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s exemption for India

September 15, 2008

WILPF Statement on the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s exemption for India

On 6 September 2008, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) unanimously approved a exemption from its nuclear cooperation guidelines for India, opening the door to allow all NSG member states to trade nuclear materials, technologies, and equipment with India. This waiver violates the rules of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has been ratified by 189 states. It undermines all efforts to halt the spread of sensitive nuclear materials, to prevent nuclear arms races, and to abolish nuclear weapons. WILPF deplores the NSG’s decision and the strong-arm pressure imposed by the United States upon six governments who vocally opposed the deal.

India possesses nuclear weapons, is not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, continues to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, and has rejected calls from the international community to renounce its nuclear weapons and join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. Thus trading sensitive nuclear materials with India has been, until now, prohibited by international law.

The origins of the NSG waiver lie in the nuclear cooperation agreement signed by US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005—the “US-India Deal”. Under the proposed deal, India would separate its military and civilian nuclear reactors, and place some—but not all—of its civilian nuclear reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Military facilities and stockpiles of nuclear fuel that India has produced up until the deal takes effect are not included in those facilities subject to inspections or safeguards. In exchange, India would be allowed to import nuclear materials and equipment from the United States.

From the start, WILPF has argued that the US-India Deal poses a litany of challenges to disarmament and non-proliferation. The supply of nuclear fuel to India from other states would allow India to divert more of its own uranium resources to significantly expand production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. The agreement does not call for any additional measures that would constrain India’s fissile material or nuclear weapon production and does not call upon India to sign or ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would prohibit India from resuming nuclear weapon testing.

WILPF notes that the deal violates Article I of the NPT, which prohibits nuclear weapon states from “in any way” assisting, encouraging, or inducing any non-nuclear weapon state’s nuclear weapons programme. The deal also violates other consensus positions agreed upon by NPT members, including a 1995 agreement that requires acceptance of the IAEA’s full-scope safeguards and internationally legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in exchange for any new nuclear supply arrangements. The deal also contravenes UN Security Council Resolution 1172 (1998), which encourages “all States to prevent the export of equipment, materials or technology that could in any wayassist programmes in India or Pakistan for nuclear weapons.” Rather than bringing India into the “nuclear non-proliferation mainstream” as US President Bush has argued, the agreement allows India to flagrantly trod upon the NPT and other instruments of international law. It effectively normalizes India’s status as a de facto nuclear weapon state outside the NPT, elevating it to the level of a nuclear weapon state under the Treaty but not bound by any of its obligations. It enables India to participate in the international community’s system of nuclear activities without conforming to the systems norms, standards, or laws.

In order to put this agreement into effect, the United States and India needed exemptions from the IAEA, NSG, and US Congress. US Congress approved implementing legislation with certain conditions in December 2006 though it must still approve a formal agreement for nuclear cooperation. The 35-member IAEA Board of Governors approved a civilian nuclear safeguards agreement with India on 1 August 2008. At an NSG meeting on 22 August 2008, six governments—Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland—raised concerns about the deal undermining the NPT. Almost half the NSG’s membership proposed about 50 amendments to the US proposal for a waiver, some of which the United States incorporated into a revised draft for the September meeting—though experts still condemned the proposal as “inadequate and irresponsible.”[1] However, after “some nasty threats, misinformation about positions, and intimidation,”[2] all six governments backed down.

WILPF is appalled by the NSG’s reckless disregard for international law. The 45-member NSG cannot reinterpret or disregard articles of the 189-member NPT. WILPF is also appalled by the United States’ use of power politics, which crushes any illusion of democratic decision-making in international diplomacy. This waiver represents a stepbackwards for non-proliferation and disarmament: it allows for an increase in nuclear weapons and fissile materials and the resumption of nuclear testing. It undermines the NPT at a time when the regime is facing other crises and needs support to retain its credibility and functionality. It perpetuates the false dichotomy between “good” and “bad” nuclear weapon states, an unsustainable tension that will only lead to further proliferation, confrontation, and conflict.

Nuclear abolition requires an international system based on cooperation instead of domination, on the rule of law instead of the rule of force. Noting the damage this waiver inflicts upon law and cooperation, WILPF calls on all NSG member states to respect the NPT and non-proliferation norms and refrain from engaging in nuclear trade with India. WILPF calls on citizens of those 45 countries to pressure their governments to dismiss the waiver as a violation of international law and for all states to consider taking this issue to the International Court of Justice to ask for an injunction against the implementation of the waiver. WILPF also calls on US Congress to reject the proposed agreement.

 

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