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(DV) Lee: Bush's Destabilizing Nuclear Deal with India







Bush's Destabilizing Nuclear Deal with India:
An Idiotic Tango Begets Irradiated Mangos
by Ingmar Lee
April 18, 2006

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Countless thousands of people have died in the utterly stupid and useless wars that have been fought between India and Pakistan since "Partition" in 1947. This warmongering enmity has resulted in a precarious and insidious arms race, and today the subdivided subcontinent is locked into the world's most dangerous nuclear brinkmanship embrace. Both India and Pakistan have secretly developed rickety nuclear weapons using materials derived from internationally supplied civilian power plants. Both countries have tested nuclear bombs and developed missile systems capable of delivering the bombs to their targets. As the entire world knows full well, if one combatant gets a nuke, then its opponent will want one as well. It wasn't until India exploded its first nuke that Pakistan knew that it had to have the bomb too. This is exactly what nuclear proliferation is all about.


The Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament, and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Neither India nor Pakistan is a signatory to the NPT, and both countries have defiled the spirit of the treaty by their nuclear weapons programs. On May 11 and 13, 1998, India blatantly carried out five nuclear tests at its Pokhran blast site. Two weeks later, Pakistan responded by exploding five nuclear bombs at its base in Balochistan. But in spite of such outright reciprocal madness, in the buck-boggled brain of Bush, India should be given a special exemption from the requirements of the Non Proliferation Treaty.


Bush Throws Gas on the Fire


When India detonated its first nuclear blast in 1974, it weaseled out an explanation to the horrified world that their plan was to apply such explosive power to "peaceful projects" only. Hard-rock mining was an example that was given. India is extremely proud to be a nuclear power and has therefore invested heavily in its program by constructing 22 reactors since 1956. For this massive investment, the civil return is a pathetic 3% total nuclear contribution to the country's electrical grid. Fifty years of frenzied construction has got Boiling Water Reactors, Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors, Fast Breeder Reactors and Reprocessing plants buzzing and clicking away all over the country, but beyond producing this pittance of electricity, there's only one other thing that the Nuke Plants are good for and that's making bombs. Oh, and irradiating mangos.


In July 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh traveled to Washington to discuss with Bush how India and the USA could patch up their differences and start the free-flow of nuclear material, fuels, technology and expertise once again. America had boycotted India's program since the latter started detonating its bombs. Bush then visited India in March to further the deal, but before he left the US, in a bizarre bargaining feint, he arbitrarily demoted India from the ranks of "leading countries with advanced nuclear technology" (the phrase used in the July 18, 2005 India-US Statement) to those who merely have a "developing nuclear energy program." In his speech to the Asia Society in Washington, Bush named India as a country that would have to hand over its spent nuclear fuel to a handful of "supplier nations" for reprocessing, forgoing in the bargain its right to reprocess the waste generated from its civilian nuclear program. But after flying half way around the world in a highly publicized PR adventure, the Indian negotiators knew very well that Bush just had to emerge with a deal, at any cost, so they easily got around all that eleventh hour bluster.


Bush Gets Snookered


Here's Bush at a joint press availability with Singh in New Delhi after the negotiations, stammering out his newly-revised version of the reprocessing point: "Listen, I proposed reprocessing agreements -- that stands in stark contrast to current nuclear theology that we shouldn't reprocess for proliferation concerns. I don't see how you can advocate nuclear power, in order to take the pressure off of our own economy, for example, without advocating technological development of reprocessing, because reprocessing will not only -- reprocessing is going to help with the environmental concerns with nuclear power. It will make there -- to put it bluntly, there will be less material to dispose." "And, oh, by the way, Mr. Prime Minister, the United States is looking forward to eating Indian mangos." The clincher for this new export deal was that India would now irradiate the fruit to make it suitable for American consumption.


The Bush team was otherwise roundly out-maneuvered and had to capitulate on virtually every single proliferation restraint that had been embedded in the American bargaining position. India agreed to allow international safeguards on only 14 of its reactors. The other eight, therefore, will be able to proliferate nuclear weaponry. The Bush team even capitulated on safeguarding the fast breeder reactors, which can produce especially large quantities of bomb-quality plutonium. So the plan will also allow India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel in its civilian power reactors for weapons purposes. If the deal goes through, India can extract more that two tons of plutonium from fuel rods and build a 1,000 more bombs. And while Manmohan Singh may have promised to refrain from nuclear test blasts, not so with his predecessor, former Prime Minister and BJP opposition leader Atal Behari Vajpayee. Accusing the government of accepting "a legally binding commitment" never to test nuclear weapons, Vajpayee said that the India-US deal should be redrawn to ensure that India's right to conduct nuclear tests is not compromised.


The shrewd Indian negotiators also knew that the crippled lame-duck Bush will have to clear another series of political hurdles back home before this deal is ever ratified, so India has not kept all of its eggs in the Bush basket either. They've got other options already lined up to satisfy their desperate need for nuclear fuel, just in case Bush can't wheedle the US Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) into lowering their principles and standards to his level. The only thing Bush can now hype about his deal is the billions and billions of bucks that will flow into the massive American-economy-stoking nuclear and weapons of mass destruction proliferation business. The proliferation concerns that Bush welched on were just another pesky international, UN obstacle that must be bludgeoned to make way for the USA.


Certainly, Lockheed Martin will be getting a huge cut of the spoils. The Moscow-based daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta claimed that during Bush's India visit the United States and India exchanged “letters of intent” concerning American companies' effort to squeeze Moscow out of the Indian arms market by selling New Delhi 126 F-16/F-18 fighter jets. And just to make sure that the giant US war machine accrues maximum profit from any violence that occurs on the subcontinent, on March 25 Bush also authorized the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in an Orwellian move that reverses 15 years of policy begun by his own father, Bush #1. India immediately complained, warning that this would destabilize the volatile region. Bush administration officials said there would be no limits on how many warplanes Pakistan could eventually purchase.


"What we are trying to do is solidify and extend relations with both India and Pakistan, at a time when we have good relations with both of them -- something most people didn't think could be done -- and at a time when they have improving relationships with one another," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with The Washington Post. "If you look at it in terms of the region," she added, "what we are trying to do is break out of the notion that this is a hyphenated relationship somehow, that anything that happens that is good for Pakistan is bad for India, and vice versa."


But the US Congress, and even the quisling US corporate media, is not necessarily buying the Bush bullshit. Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) is now challenging the bill, and is exposing more Indian subterfuge in its nuclear program. Two days before Rice defended the deal in her testimony before Congress recently, The Washington Post said, “few of Bush's decisions have as much potential to shake up international order than this deal with India . . . He decided to change laws to enable India to buy foreign-made nuclear reactors if it opened its civilian facilities to international inspections -- while being allowed to substantially ramp up its ability to produce materials for nuclear weapons,” the Post said. Earlier this month, the Post reported that it was turning out to be a “controversial deal” and a “hard sell” on Capitol Hill primarily because Congress had never even been consulted. As one non-proliferation policy specialist put it, “it is no accident that [nuclear experts] were not included, because you didn't have to be a seer to know how much they would hate this. But Bush doesn't care about that. This deal was never about non-proliferation -- it's about billions and billions of dollars.”


According to Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns, the chief negotiator of the deal, “There are times when you have to engage in incremental diplomacy and there are times when you need someone who is willing to make a bold move. The President was willing to make a bold move towards India, and it is going to pay off for the United States now and into the future.” Burns added, “That economic benefit (note singular) is going to be in the billions, there's no question about that, because of the huge nature of the Indian economy and the expansion that they are planning in the civil nuclear energy field . . . ” -- the plan is to up the Nuke contribution to the grid from 3% to 20% by 2020 – “and given the state of technological research on nuclear reactors, and given the elementary ingredient of financing, this is an extremely -- the payoff, the economic benefits, in the long term will be substantial, certainly in billions.”


Bush Gets Duped


In the July 18th 2005 India-US Joint Statement, Bush told Manmohan Singh that, "he will work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India as it realizes its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security. The President would also seek agreement from Congress to adjust U.S. laws and policies, and the United States will work with friends and allies (the Nuclear Suppliers Group) to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India, including, but not limited to, expeditious consideration of fuel supplies for safeguarded nuclear reactors at Tarapur." By 2005, India was getting pretty desperate to get around the international obstacles that were preventing them from getting fuel for Tarapur.


Russia and India, it turns out, had already concluded a secret deal to supply fuel to Tarapur, and they were not going to wait around for the political wrangling that will take place in Washington over the next few months to be sorted out. Instead, immediately after Bush's visit to India, Russia raced to the Nuclear Suppliers Group to notify them of their intention to supply fuel to two of the Tarapur nuclear reactors on "safety grounds," because the reactors were running low on fuel. The Russian deal to supply the nuclear fuel was concluded last December, but because it was going to raise hackles, especially in the United States, it was kept under wraps until February. It was only then that Russia notified the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group of the sale. India's Big Buddy Bush was not even informed that a fuel deal had already been negotiated with Russia in the lead up to his trip to India! The U.S., like other NSG members, only came to know of the proposed supply after Mr. Bush's return to Washington when Russia intimated its intent.


Here's the response of Official Spokesperson of India's Ministry of External Affairs to questions regarding the Russian fuel supply to the Tarapur nuclear, on March 14, 2006:


Question: There are some wire reports that Russia has agreed to supply nuclear fuel for Tarapur? What is your take on that?


Answer: Well, the report is correct to the extent that to India's request, Russia has agreed to supply a limited amount of uranium fuel for the safeguarded units 1 and 2 of the Tarapur Atomic Power Station and this supply of fuel will enable the plant to continue to operate in safety and provide much needed electricity to the western power grid of the country.


Question: Have they taken the approval of NSG in this regard?


Answer: According to our information, they have notified the NSG of their intention to supply fuel to Tarapur under the safety exception clause of the NSG guidelines. The shortage of fuel for Tarapur would have affected its continued operations under reliable and safe conditions.


Question: Can Russia unilaterally do it, or this will have to be formally cleared by NSG?


Answer: Well, they have notified the NSG of their intention to supply the fuel under a particular clause which is the safety exception clause of the guidelines. The fact that they have notified them and identified the clause, I think answers your question.


Question: The last time such fuel came, in 2001, it was criticized by the US government…(inaudible)...this is a fallout of the…(inaudible)...it will allow more countries to have dealings outside the NPT ?


Answer: Let me put it like this. You know India has made a request to the United States for supply of fuel for Tarapur, and this is not being possible under the current US laws. The July 18 statement has stated that the US will seek to adjust its laws and seek a change in NSG guidelines to enable full civil nuclear cooperation with India, including, fuel supplies to the safeguarded reactors at Tarapur. The statement also commits the United States, in the meantime to encourage its partners to consider supply of fuel expeditiously to India, and India has had to seek this urgent and limited supply of uranium fuel to enable the Tarapur reactors to function in safe and reliable conditions.


As R. Ramachandran wrote in The Hindu on March 23: “The perception within government circles that India's firm stand on civil-military separation was unlikely to be accepted by the U.S. was apparently the motive for engaging in parallel negotiations with Russia. But, even if negotiations had been concluded in parallel, it was highly undiplomatic to firm up a supply contract before Mr. Bush's visit, and not inform him on top of it. The Government could have waited till the U.S.' response to India's separation offer became clear and proceeded accordingly. With a favourable U.S. response, and Mr. Bush's apparent keenness to see changes in U.S. laws and NSG Guidelines through, it would have made more sense to wait till the NSG Plenary in May.”


Now I just have to ask, how is it that this incredible story that Russia and India duped an American president on the world stage is not making headlines all over the USA media?


There is one other major South Asian destabilizing aspect of the USA/India nuclear deal that needs to be mentioned. Bush and his Neocon cabal have been ratcheting up the rhetoric in the lead-up to a seemingly inevitable American attack on Iran, which may feature a pre-emptive nuclear strike on its civilian nuclear installations. Contrary to the assertions of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it is widely believed that during the nuclear bargaining, he did make three major concessions to Bush. First, India supported Bush's recent machinations against Iran and the IAEA, and subsequently at the UN Security Council. Secondly, Singh conceded to terminate the $4 billion "Peace Pipeline" project that was to have delivered natural gas from Iran, across Pakistan, to India, which was slated to be operational by 2011. And Thirdly, Singh has demoted the main architect and proponent of the Peace Pipeline, his Union Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, to the post of Sports and Youth Affairs.


India's goal for its civilian nuclear program is to boost its contribution to its electrical grid from 3% to 12% by 2020, an increase of 20,000 megawatts. Iran however, could easily supply that 20,000 megawatts through the Peace Pipeline delivery of comparatively environmentally ethical natural gas from its South Pars gas field near the Balochistan border, with an estimated 286.6 trillion cubic meter in proven natural gas reserves. Condoleezza Rice, however, has not minced her words about the US opposition the gas pipeline project. “We've voiced our concerns to the Indian Government about the gas pipeline with Iran.” said Rice. Under a US law or the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, George Bush can penalize any foreign firm that invests more than 20 million dollars in the energy sectors of either country. In other words, India was required to sacrifice the pipeline to the nuclear agreement.


It's difficult to envision a more stabilizing, neighborly Peace project for the whole region. To construct such a pipeline would require an inordinate degree of cooperation and goodwill to stitch together and stabilize this volatile region of the world. Mr. Aiyar's energetic and passionate pursuit of the Peace Pipeline, in my opinion, makes him one of India's most outstanding and unusual peace activists and a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. On the other hand, it's impossible to imagine a more idiotic and disastrous catastrophe than that which has been inflicted on South Asia by George W. Bush.

Ingmar Lee is a Canadian freelance writer currently living in Pondicherry, India, just downwind from the Kalpakkam Nuclear Power Plant. He believes that what is really terrifying Bush about Iran and its pipeline projects, which are now snaking all the way to China, is that the Chinese, and then everyone else in the region, will start buying Iranian oil in Euros. Ingmar can be reached at ingmarz@gmail.com, or via his website: www.ingmarlee.com.

Other Articles by Ingmar Lee

* The Citizens' Metamorphosis: The Transition to Direct Action
* The Final Days of the PNAC Cabal