Administration's initiative to sell civilian nuclear technology to
India, a de facto nuclear-weapon state, is a landmark
decision that will have a broad and lasting impact on the
international nonproliferation regime. The challenge will be to
develop cooperative nuclear energy relationships with friendly,
democratic, de facto nuclear powers such as India while
maintaining America's long-term nonproliferation
Carving out exceptions
for individual countries is an obvious but controversial solution
to the dilemma. Regrettably, exceptions can become precedents for
even more exceptions. For example, Russia or China could cite the
U.S.-India deal as an excuse to carve out country-specific
exceptions for client states, such as Iran and Pakistan.
To meet the new
challenges presented by the growing impact of de facto
nuclear-weapon states on U.S. security, American policymakers
should pursue a two-track policy for nuclear nonproliferation and
develop criteria-based policies for emerging nuclear technology
relationships with de facto nuclear-weapon
The first track is the
broad regime to
prevent nuclear proliferation built around the 1968 Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which does not account
for the presence of de facto nuclear-weapon states. Indeed,
the central purpose of the NPT is to prevent the emergence of such
The second track should
focus on addressing the regional security imbalances that motivate
non-nuclear-weapon states to seek nuclear weapons. The purpose of
the second track is not to abandon the first track, but to explore
means for convincing de facto nuclear-weapon states to
abandon their nuclear weapons and return to the first track.
The NPT is the world's
most important diplomatic tool for controlling the spread of
nuclear weapons and technology. In 1968, the United Nations
endorsed the treaty, and 62 nations signed it. Today, 187 countries
are signatories with the notable exceptions of Cuba, India,
Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea, which withdrew in
The goal of the NPT was
to stop proliferation by limiting the number of states with nuclear
weapons. It designated countries that had detonated a nuclear
device prior to January 1967 (i.e., the United States, the United
Kingdom, France, China, and the Soviet Union) as "nuclear-weapon
Countries that do not possess nuclear weapons and promise not to
pursue them are designated as "non-nuclear-weapon states." In
return, they are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology
as long as they continue to forswear nuclear weapons and do not
pursue nuclear weapon programs.
Since its inception,
the treaty has preempted the nuclear weapon programs of a number of
states, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and Switzerland.
In pursuit of the NPT's goals, the United States and the
international community have pressured countries that subsequently
began nuclear weapon programs-including South Africa, South Korea,
Taiwan, Brazil, and Argentina-to give up those programs. At
the end of the Cold War, the international community pursued NPT
goals in the former Soviet republics and persuaded all of the
republics except Russia to give up the weapons that they had
inherited from the Soviet Union.
Today, a large and
growing number of countries, including Canada and Australia,
possess the technological capability to build the bomb but have not
done so because they believe that the NPT effectively prevents the
uncontrolled spread of nuclear weapons.
There are fears that by
cooperating with India's civilian nuclear program, the United
States could create the appearance of disregarding NPT
strictures and thereby undermine its integrity. To maintain
the authority and credibility of the NPT, the U.S. government
should therefore develop a criteria-based policy, rather than an
India-based policy, for addressing America's relationship with the
de facto nuclear powers. A criteria-based policy will
also reassure the other NPT member countries that the
U.S.-India agreement will not undermine the international
The Problem of De
Facto Nuclear-Weapon States
During the Cold War,
the five NPT-approved nuclear-weapon states were divided between
East and West. On one side stood the NATO countries of the U.S.,
France, and the U.K., and on the other side was the Soviet Union.
Although Communist China was a nuclear-weapon state under the NPT,
Beijing played almost no role in the arms control debates of the
period because of its limited capability. The Cold War
antagonists possessed sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy
one another, but from the perspective of a nonproliferation regime,
negotiations were eased because there were so few parties with
which to negotiate.
Today, there are at least four additional nuclear-weapon
states-India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea-and Iran could soon
join their ranks. The de facto nuclear-weapon states are
developing nuclear capability for a variety of reasons other
than the familiar motivations of the Cold War. For example, while
Israel is presumed to have the weapons for traditional threat-based
deterrence, North Korea appears to possess nuclear weapons for use
as a bargaining tool as well as a deterrent.
In India's case, New
Delhi considers the balance of power with China to be lopsided
in China's favor, not only because of India's previous lack of
a nuclear deterrent, but also because of China's place as a
permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Hence, New Delhi is
not ashamed to admit that one of the reasons for testing its
weapons was to gain the trappings of a great power that it
believes are denied India by the United Nations and the
international nonproliferation regime.
In addition, not all of
the de facto nuclear-weapon states behave in the same way.
Israel does not regularly threaten its neighbors with total
destruction as North Korea has threatened South Korea. Neither does
India proliferate nuclear technology as Pakistan has done to
Iran, Libya, and North Korea.
Indiaand the International
India's nuclear technology
is not homegrown; it was imported from the U.S. and its allies.
Under the Eisenhower Administration's Atoms for Peace program, the
United States assisted non-nuclear states in the development of
peaceful nuclear capability. Beginning in 1955, the United
States trained foreign nuclear scientists and engineers and
declassified thousands of reports on plutonium processing
and other nuclear-related information.
In 1955, members of the
U.S. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy visited India to promote the
peaceful uses of atomic energy, and
Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru succeeded in persuading
the international community to make Homi Bhahba (father of India's
nuclear establishment) president of the first U.N. Conference on
the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, held in Geneva in July and
August. This conference facilitated the flow of U.S., Canadian, and
British assistance to the Indian nuclear programs in the
Also in 1955, Canada
agreed to supply India with a powerful research reactor-the 40
megawatt Canada-India Reactor (CIR). Then, in February 1956,
Washington supplied 21 tons of heavy water for this reactor, now
dubbed the Canada-India Reactor, U.S. or CIRUS.
Acquisition of CIRUS
was a turning point for India's nuclear weapons ambitions. The
reactor's design was ideal for producing weapons-grade
plutonium. CIRUS produced the plutonium used in India's first
nuclear test in 1974, provided the design prototype for India's
more powerful Dhruva plutonium production "research" reactor, and
is directly responsible for producing nearly half of the
weapons-grade plutonium currently believed to be in India's
stockpile. Although U.S. cooperation on the CIRUS project was
granted on the understanding that the reactor would be used
only for peaceful purposes, there were no international safeguards
available to regulate and verify the use of transferred
After India's 1974
nuclear weapon test-which India described as a "peaceful"
explosion-the United States and other countries that produced
nuclear technology formed the Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG). The
goal of the NSG was to prevent exports of commercial and civilian
nuclear and dual-use technologies from being diverted to the
weapons programs of other countries. For 30 years, U.S.-India
nuclear technology transfers stopped.
Nevertheless, New Delhi
did not stop its nuclear weapons programs. At the end of the Cold
War, India's patron, the Soviet Union, was gone, the Indian economy
was a crumbling socialist relic, and China was the new emerging
power. To reassert itself on the world stage, India embarked
on an effort to reform its economy in 1991, began courting a
closer relationship with the United States, and tested its nuclear
weapons again in 1998 as a demonstration of strength. Although
the test brought another storm of international condemnation, both
the Bush and Clinton Administrations soon began to seek out ways to
cooperate with India as a friendly, de facto nuclear power
that shared American values and interests.
The United States and
India agreed to the Next Step for a Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in
July 2005 and to a follow-up agreement in March 2006 in which the
United States and India agreed to civilian nuclear and space
cooperation. These agreements, if implemented, run counter to the
spirit of the NPT. The NPT encourages cooperation in the
civilian nuclear power field only with non-nuclear-weapon
states in exchange for their clear commitments not to seek
In the past, the U.S.
has withheld nuclear cooperation from and has severely limited
defense cooperation with countries openly seeking nuclear
weapons, including India. The new willingness of the U.S. to engage
in cooperative activities in the civilian nuclear power field with
a state outside of the NPT raises questions about the future of
U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy.
Despite its snub of
international proliferation controls, New Delhi has many policies
that serve broader U.S. interests and demonstrate a respect for
nonproliferation goals, including the following:
Although not a
signatory of the NPT, India has no record of proliferating nuclear
technology to other countries, while China, a de jure
nuclear-weapon state, is suspected of sharing nuclear weapons
technology with both Pakistan and North Korea. Pakistan has
admitted to sharing nuclear technology with North Korea, Libya, and
Iran. Russia is also bargaining to sell nuclear technology to
Iran, a country that is known to be violating its NPT
India is a democracy. While
the governments of other de jure and de facto
nuclear-weapon states (e.g., China, Pakistan, and North Korea) are
less than democratic, there is a high correlation between the
quality of democracy and a country's proliferation
India and the United States
have a sophisticated and mutually beneficial defense relationship.
India generally shares American and Western concerns about regional
India has agreed to separate
its civilian and military nuclear facilities and to place its
civilian reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
safeguards-a move warmly approved by IAEA Director General
Mohammed ElBaradei, who called India "an important partner in
the nonproliferation regime." North
Korea and Iran have withdrawn from or have violated their IAEA
While India has not
signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), it has declared a
unilateral moratorium on testing nuclear weapons.
appearance as a model of moderation and stability, there are
perceptions of India's nuclear weapons programs that, if not
properly addressed, could ignite a regional arms race. Most
important is the perception of India in Pakistan.
The primary purpose of
Pakistan's nuclear deterrent is India. Islamabad has largely
accepted that New Delhi needs a minimum nuclear arsenal, but
Islamabad asserts that India should not substantially exceed
Pakistan's deterrent in size or capability. There
are also three U.S. policies toward India that unfavorably affect
Islamabad's security perceptions.
First, India and the United
States are cooperating on regional missile defense, which could
someday counter Pakistan's missile delivery capability.
U.S.-India nuclear deal excludes eight of India's nuclear reactors,
including its fast breeder reactor. Fast breeder reactors are known
to be very efficient at creating weapons-grade fuel. Islamabad is
afraid that without international controls, India will continue to
produce nuclear weapons until it has an overwhelming
the United States
is not including Pakistan in a civilian nuclear deal. Islamabad
feels that it needs a conventional military deterrent against India
to avoid escalation in the event of war or border
confrontation. Pakistan is already insecure about India's much
greater size, and Islamabad worries about an American alliance with
its greatest enemy.
That said, there is
little motivation in Washington to change policies.
Pakistan has an extensive
nuclear proliferation network, and its belated efforts to stop
proliferating nuclear weapons technology are incomplete
and will not recall technology that is already spread to North
Korea and Iran.
Pakistan is not a democracy.
President Pervez Musharraf's claim that only continued army control
can keep Pakistan together is a self-serving sham.
The United States and
Pakistan have a long and mutually beneficial defense relationship,
but Pakistan's past support of terrorist groups and current
ineffectual attacks on the same groups are the reasons the United
States does not want to extend civil nuclear cooperation to
Nevertheless, it is in
America's interests to reassure Pakistan and the international
community that a criteria-based second-track policy does not
present open-ended exceptions to qualifying non- nuclear-weapon
states. Indeed, reassuring Pakistan is a central goal of the second
track of the two-track policy proposed in this paper.
to the Nuclear Proliferation Problem
While China is a de
jure nuclear-weapon state under the NPT, U.S. policy cannot
ignore the fact that China's behavior has served to spur India to
obtain nuclear weapons. For example:
On December 23, 2005,
the U.S. government imposed sanctions on six Chinese companies
for violating the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. Three of
these companies had been sanctioned previously.
The nuclear weapons
technology discovered in North Korea's nuclear program, including
large numbers of centrifuge machines to produce weapons-grade
uranium, originated with Chinese assistance to Pakistan's nuclear
programs. It seems most unlikely that Islamabad would have
passed on Chinese-origin nuclear technology in such quantities to
North Korea without Beijing's knowledge and consent.
A December 2003 CIA
report to Congress notes that in November 2000, China
committed to refusing to assist any country in developing
ballistic missiles that could be used to deliver nuclear weapons.
In August 2002, as part of that commitment, China promulgated a
comprehensive missile-related export control system, similar in
scope to the Missile Technology Control Regime Annex. However, the
CIA report also notes that Chinese firms continue to provide North
Korea with dual-use missile-related items, raw materials, and other
China provided nuclear
technology assistance to Pakistan through 1992, when Beijing
joined the NPT. In 1995, China exported 5,000 specially designed
ring magnets to an unsafeguarded nuclear laboratory in
Pakistan that allegedly was involved in nuclear weapons
In 2004, nuclear
weapons design documents, written in Chinese and originally
addressed to Pakistan, were discovered in Libya. The documents
suggest that China continued to provide training to Pakistani
scientists over the course of several years after transferring
Thomas Woodrow, "China
Opens Pandora's Nuclear Box," China Brief, Vol. 2, Issue 24
(December 10, 2002), at
(April 5, 2006).
Agency, "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of
Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced
Conventional Munitions: 1 January-June 2003," December 2003, at
(April 5, 2006).
While properly crafted
legislation and international agreements should establish
criteria that permit only qualifying de facto
nuclear-weapon states to benefit from civil nuclear cooperation,
second-track negotiations should reassure Islamabad that Washington
will not permit New Delhi to use its nuclear deal with the U.S. to
dominate Pakistan or accelerate the arms race in Asia. In fact, the
U.S. should press for the resolution of regional disputes in the
second track with the ultimate goal of convincing both India
and Pakistan that neither country needs nuclear weapons.
Success in the second track, therefore, will serve the purpose of
the NPT, which is to limit nuclear weapons to the five de
jure nuclear-weapon states identified by the treaty.
What the U.S. Should
The United States
should develop a criteria-based policy rather than an
exception-based policy for engaging de facto nuclear states
in civil nuclear cooperation and other forms of cooperation.
Engagement with de facto nuclear states that meet American
criteria could include military-to-military contacts,
conventional arms sales, space cooperation, missile defense
cooperation, and joint military exercises. In deference to the
nuclear nonproliferation goals and treaty obligations of the
United States, however, under no circumstances should cooperation
extend to nuclear weapons and delivery systems designed for nuclear
The criteria for
nuclear power technology transfers should include:
A stable democracy and
rule of law. Democracy is not a
shallow political ideology; it is a necessity for any effective
nonproliferation regime. Of the current 10 de jure and de
facto nuclear-weapon states, the ones with the best
nonproliferation records are the democracies. The United States and
its allies did assist India in developing its nuclear industry,
indirectly assisting its weapons program; but when India
tested a nuclear weapon in 1974, cooperation halted, and the
democracies moved to block further technology transfers.
Furthermore, India has no record of passing nuclear technology to
other countries. On the other hand, all the non-democratic
nuclear-weapon states are aggressive and indiscriminate
A record of not
proliferating nuclear technology "to other states" and a
demonstrated respect for the international nuclear
nonproliferation regime's obligations for nuclear-weapon
states. India has no record of
transferring nuclear technology to any other country-
consistent with the NPT. India has also declared a unilateral
moratorium on testing nuclear weapons-consistent with the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)-and has demonstrated an
interest in participating in the Proliferation Security
Initiative (PSI). It is American reluctance to accept a country
that is not an NPT member that has delayed India's participation in
Not being a state
sponsor of terrorism. The nexus of
state-sponsored terrorism and nuclear weapons is America's greatest
Firm separation between
civilian and military nuclear programs. Commercial power
reactors are an area in which the United States can accomplish
multiple goals with de facto nuclear powers. For example, an
energy trade deal with India should include provisions that prevent
India from subsidizing civilian reactors and prevent the United
States and other nuclear suppliers from providing nuclear
technologies or facilities at prices below the cost of
production. Without government assistance, a nuclear power
plant would not be economically viable if it was diverting
resources to expensive military projects, such as building bombs.
At the same time, a trade agreement that eliminated government
subsidies and allowed India's power plants to operate for profit
would force substantial reform in India's energy sector and
contribute to the country's economic development.
policies. This criterion
addresses the fundamental security pretexts for developing
nuclear weapons in ways that will encourage de facto nuclear
states to abandon or reduce their nuclear weapons programs.
For example, the threat posed by Pakistan is one of many
reasons for India to possess nuclear weapons, but India is
Pakistan's only reason for possessing nuclear weapons. This
criterion would require India to engage in substantive
negotiations to resolve disputes.
India, however, does meet
this criterion. The ongoing armistice at the Line of Control and
the Kashmir border talks between Pakistan and India are making
remarkable progress. Although neither country is close to making a
fundamental compromise on Kashmir, they have reached a range of
agreements on other matters, particularly on controls for
their nuclear weapons.
A willingness to
consider limits on the number of nuclear weapons.
advocates assert that this agreement, when implemented,
would free India's domestic capacity to produce the fissile
material (highly enriched uranium and plutonium) needed to build
nuclear weapons and would set a bad precedent for other de
facto nuclear-weapon states. The Bush
Administration's proposed legislation to implement the agreement
with India addresses this issue by conditioning U.S. support
for India's civil nuclear program on India's assistance to the U.S.
in concluding a multilateral Fissile Material Cut-off
Ultimately, the size of
a state's nuclear arsenal depends on more than just the volume of
fissile material that it can produce.
Perceived threats and military doctrine regarding the use of
nuclear weapons are at least as important. This issue is best
addressed in the second track of the two-track nonproliferation
policy, which focuses on regional security issues. The broader
purpose of the second track is to address the underlying security
concerns that prompted India to obtain nuclear weapons in such a
way that India concludes that it no longer needs nuclear weapons.
Clearly, the second-track agenda should address the threat and
doctrinal issues in ways that, among other issues, lessen the
threats that the state faces.
The end of the Cold War
brought into existence arms control treaties that have dramatically
decreased the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world.
Regrettably, at the same time, the number of states that possess
nuclear weapons or that have the ability to develop the bomb is
criteria-based formula for engaging de facto nuclear states
would reward responsible countries without giving them a free ride
on future behavior. More important, it would permit both the United
States and the international community to maintain their
long-term proliferation goals.
Dillon is Senior Policy Analyst for Southeast
Asia in the Asian Studies Center and Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby
Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Douglas and
Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
terminology can be confusing because "regime" has two separate
definitions. The first definition refers to the plethora of
policies, institutions, and laws designed to combat proliferation.
These include treaty and non-treaty international agreements,
international institutions, domestic laws and regulations, and
domestic institutions. The second definition refers to a more
specific nonproliferation policy, institution, or law that contains
the word "regime," such as the Missile Technology Control Regime.
This paper uses the broader definition. Given the subject matter,
however, special emphasis is placed on those portions of the
nonproliferation regime that focus on nuclear weapons.
For a theoretical
description of the two-track policy for combating nuclear
proliferation within the context of the challenges presented by
India, see Baker Spring, "India and a Two-Track Policy to Combat
Nuclear Proliferation: Guidelines for Congress to Balance
Regional Security with Nonproliferation," Heritage Foundation
WebMemo No. 810, July 29, 2005, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/wm810.cfm.
Russia succeeded the Soviet
Union as a de jure nuclear-weapon state following the
collapse of the Soviet Union.
India's Nuclear Bomb (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1999), p. 30.
Nuclear Weapon Archive,
"India's Nuclear Weapons Program: The Beginning: 1944-1960,"
updated March 30, 2001, at
(May 3, 2006).
Press release, "IAEA
Director General Welcomes U.S. and India Nuclear Deal,"
International Atomic Energy Agency, March 2, 2006, at
(May 8, 2006).
Estimates vary wildly
and are impossible to confirm, but many sources put the number at
around 50 warheads each.
For a detailed
explanation of this argument, see press briefing, "The U.S.-India
Nuclear Cooperation Deal: A Critical Assessment," Arms Control
Association, February 15, 2006, at
(April 10, 2006).
A Fissile Material
Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) would cap the production of fissile material
for weapons purposes worldwide. The U.N. Conference on Disarmament,
based on a 1993 General Assembly resolution, has a mandate to
negotiate an FMCT. The U.S. supports such a treaty in principle but
doubts whether it can be verifiable. The question of verification
and a number of issues tangential to the direct subject of such
negotiations have effectively blocked progress on the negotiations
at the Conference on Disarmament.
Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice stated during an April 5, 2006, hearing before the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it is the U.S. assessment
that India possesses 50,000 tons of uranium in its reserves. See
Condoleezza Rice, statement in hearing, U.S.-India Atomic Energy
Cooperation: The Indian Separation Plan and the Administration's
Legislative Proposal, Committee on Foreign
Relations, U.S. Senate, 109th Cong., 2nd Sess., video recording,
April 5, 2006, at
(May 3, 2006).