THE BLOG

Giving Away the Farm: Bush Caves to India on Nuke Deal

03/03/2006 04:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"This is Santa Claus negotiating. The goal seems to have been to give away as much as possible." - George Perkovich, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

With one simple move yesterday, the President blew a hole in the nuclear rules that the entire world has been playing by for over a generation. Instead of patiently working to ensure an agreement that would safeguard the security interests of the United States - and the rest of the world, for that matter - it appears that the President caved to Indian demands on virtually every significant nonproliferation issue simply so that he would have an agreement to announce on his current trip to the subcontinent.

Today, the President gave a speech in New Delhi defending his complete capitulation to the Indian Government's demands for a special exemption from U.S. and international nuclear nonproliferation law. Sadly, it was completely unconvincing.

The President argued that the India nuclear deal will strengthen the security and the economies of both nations.

He is wrong. We do not need to grant India special exemptions from nuclear nonproliferation rules in order to have a strong security relationship with India and assist India in further developing and expanding its economy. India already has a strong geopolitical basis for developing close bilateral ties with the United States. Both countries are democracies, both already are major markets for one another's goods and services, and both share common security interests.

India does face growing energy needs, but these would be better met with a U.S.-Indian partnership to develop advanced clean coal technologies, including coal gasification and carbon sequestration, renewable energy generation such as wind and solar, and improved energy efficiency and conservation. Since over 60% of India's current electricity generation comes from coal, assisting them in this energy sector would have the greatest impact on easing their energy shortfalls. There is absolutely no need for us to start exempting India from nuclear nonproliferation controls - and sell them nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel that can be made into bombs - under the guise of reducing their energy shortfalls when there are much better alternatives available.

The President also argued that the India nuclear deal will reduce the risk of proliferation.

He is wrong. By caving in to the Indian demand that they be allowed access to advanced nuclear technology without having to accept full-scope international safeguards, the President has blown a giant hole through the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. We cannot expect countries like Iran and North Korea to comply with the rules when we help India break them. If we adopt special rules for our friends, we can expect Russia and China to adopt special rules for their friends. "Bilateral Special Exemptions" will replace the standards of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and a nuclear chaos of no rules at all will be the end result.

The President also argued that this deal will take pressure off the price of fossil fuels both in India and around the world, and would ensure that India is a good steward of the environment.

He is wrong. India does not use oil to produce electricity. Most of India's oil goes into their transportation sector, and nothing in this deal will alter that fact. More than 60% of its electricity comes from burning coal, and India has the world's fourth largest reserves of coal. Nuclear power currently accounts for less than 3% of India's total electricity generation, and it is doubtful that this percentage will grow substantially in the future due to the high cost of building nuclear plants.

To further cast doubt on the President's argument that this will somehow relieve pressure on fossil fuel prices, the Indians have made it clear that at the same time they are trying to get a nuclear favors from the U.S., they will also proceed with a natural gas pipeline deal with Iran. The President has also been suggesting that this deal will improve the environment. But if he were truly concerned with air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions from India, he would be partnering with India to clean up that country's coal generation.

Bush's cave-in to India's demands is bad for U.S. security and a disaster for international efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. The President should never have agreed to a deal that allows India to keep 1000 bombs worth of nuclear material outside of safeguards. The President never should have agreed to a deal that lets India produce many more bombs worth of unsafeguarded nuclear material annually. The President never should have agreed to a deal which fails to secure India's agreement to a halt in all fissile material production for nuclear weapons. The President never should have agreed to a deal which allows India to decide when and if their current or future fast breeder reactors come under international safeguards. By adding safeguards to civilian reactors but not to the weapons reactors, the Administration has put lipstick on the wrong pig.

This deal is going to face scrutiny in Congress through a bipartisan resolution that I have cosponsored opposing nuclear cooperation with India without full-scope safeguards, and we have assembled a coalition of nonproliferation and environmental groups to fight the President's proposed deal. At the very least, the President needs to explain how the benefit to the U.S. and the world could possibly outweigh the tremendous damage this deal will do to the ongoing fight to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. I, for one, won't be holding my breath.