US-India Nuclear Cooperation Accord: Implications for the Non-proliferation Regime
Members of the IAEA Board and of the Nuclear Suppliers Group may need to decide this year whether to go along with the US proposal to allow nuclear cooperation with India despite its non-NPT status. Permitting nuclear sales to India would have important geo-strategic benefits by strengthening its partnership with the US. Yet granting India an exception to nuclear supply guidelines would also have significant non-proliferation disadvantages by weakening the NPT. Whether it would assist India's nuclear weapons development is unclear. If India were to agree voluntarily to cap its production of fissile material, this would rectify the greatest lost opportunity of the US-India nuclear agreement. The non-proliferation benefits that the Bush Administration has claimed for the accord, such as that it brings India into consensus on the Iran nuclear issue, are neither guaranteed nor long-lasting. Perhaps the best that can be said is that the transparency the accord will bring to some aspects of the Indian nuclear program could contribute to arms control measures in the future.