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US-India deal: The law of unintended consequences

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COMMENTS

27 October 2008 09:38

Guest blogger: Henry Sokolski is executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and is serving as a member of the US Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

It's the perfect man-made nuclear proliferation storm:  Congress passes the US-India nuclear deal without making sure it complies with the Hyde Act, and China follow suit and breaks the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) rules by supplying two reactors to Pakistan; India endorses the deal because India would rather see the NSG dead and be free of NSG restrictions than deny Pakistan access to reactors. Pakistan, meanwhile, is so broke it is pleading with the IMF for an unrestricted emergency loan. Normally, the IMF conditions its loans against wasteful government spending, such as uneconomical nuclear power plants. 

The US is absolutely silent about all of this.

Will those who backed the India deal as a boon for nonproliferation even notice Islamabad's request for an un unrestricted IMF loan? Will the US or others bother to suggest that any IMF grant be conditioned upon Pakistan finding the lowest bidder for its future energy projects? If it did, the nuclear project, even with Chinese help, would likely lose  against more sensible non-nuclear alternatives; see this comparative economic energy analysis of Pakistan's energy futures by Dalberg Global Advisors.

If not — and I think you can literally bank on this — Pakistan will get its Chinese heavy water reactors (good for making bomb material, whether safeguarded or not), the NSG rules become dust, India proceeds to import all the technology and material it wants for its military or civilian programs from Russia, free of any NSG or US restrictions, and Israel pushes for a reactor of its own, as well as other NSG-controlled goods denied it (supercomputers, nuclear fuel making equipment, etc.). 

The US, again, is silent, allows Israel its reactor (from the French?) and continues to give Israel untied US foreign aid to help finance it. Other Middle Eastern states demand similar financial assistance from Russia and regional development banks (eliminating any notion of market-driven energy development there) and last but not least, in three years time (or less), India tests a nuclear device under the new BJP government, immediately followed by the Pakistanis (a development privately confirmed to me recently as being 'very likely' by one of the most senior US officials backing the deal). In time, some other country changes course on its nuclear testing moratorium and follows suit (Russia, China, the US, Israel?).

Will the US let this happen without so much as peep? Will Congress, embarrassed by its own inattention and the progression of events, not even bother to hold a hearing to establish how the Indian nuclear deal should be implemented or what US policy should be regarding IMF financing of Pakistan and its energy future? Will the Secretary of State push, as she promised Senator Reid and Congressman Berman, to get the NSG to tighten its rules on nuclear fuel-making and HWR-related exports to non-NPT states or, as is more likely, forget this promise?

Will the NSG simply go quietly into the night? In the midst of the worst financial crisis in years, will key states push or allow international and regional financial institutions to give cheap loans for uneconomical state-run nuclear projects in Pakistan and the Middle East? Will all the oversight and review conferences related to the NPT and nuclear proliferation in America and Australia and at the UN mumble past these matters?

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