The agreement, which must still be approved by the U.S. Congress, marks
a significant blow to the prevailing international non-proliferation
regime, according to the critics, who have argued that it effectively
rewards India for behaviour that differs little from what Iran is trying
to do today.

"It’s going to be tough to argue that Iran and North Korea should be
denied nuclear technology while India — which has failed to even join
the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — is given the same technology on a
silver platter,"
said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin.

"The deal is a disaster for the nuclear non-proliferation regime on the
agreed Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, a leading proliferation
specialist in the U.S. Congress, who is expected to spearhead efforts to
defeat the accord as signed.

"It blows a hole through any attempts in the future that we could make
to convince the Pakistanis, or the Iranians, or the North Koreans, or
for that matter any other country in world that might interested in
obtaining nuclear weapons, that there is a level playing field, that
there is a real set of safeguards,"
he added in an interview with public

While most observers believe that a majority in Congress will eventually
go along with the deal, they also expect a spirited fight, and not only
from Democrats like Markey.

A number of high-ranking Republican lawmakers have also indicated strong
doubts about the deal, precisely because of the likelihood that it will
encourage proliferation and thus undermine national security. Among the
doubters, for example, are the chairmen of the two houses’ foreign
affairs committees, Rep. Henry Hyde and Sen. Richard Lugar.

Even the head of the increasingly powerful Congressional Caucus on
India, Rep. Gary Ackerman, has warned that Bush will have to become
personally involved in the effort to gain legislative approval.

"The president has, thus far, done a horrendous job of convincing
Congress that the agreement is a good idea,"
he said Thursday. "Now that
there is an agreement with India, he must get to work and make the case
to Congress, or else the nuclear deal will blow up in his face."

The agreement, which was concluded only at the eleventh hour of Bush’s
first trip to India this week, ends a U.S. moratorium on sales of
nuclear fuel and equipment to India since it first exploded a nuclear
device 32 years ago.

In exchange, India agreed to separate its nuclear programme into
separate military and civilian components and to open the latter to
inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the
first time. India also agreed to abide by international
non-proliferation agreements, such as those of the 45-nation Nuclear
Suppliers Group (NSG).

But non-proliferation specialists like Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace charged that agreement’s specifics —
notably the exemption of "military" reactors from international
inspections and safeguards — deal a mortal blow to the international
non-proliferation regime.

Under the plan, about one third of India’s existing 22 nuclear reactors
are designated as military, including a prototype fast-breeder reactor,
which produces plutonium needed for the production of nuclear weapons.
Moreover, the accord gives India the authority to assign future nuclear
reactors, including fast-breeders, to the military side of its nuclear
programme, thus making them, too, exempt from international safeguards.

"The deal appears to give India complete freedom not just to continue
but to expand its production of fissile material for nuclear weapons,"

according to Robert Einhorn, a top non-proliferation specialist in the
Bill Clinton administration (1993-2001) now with the Centre for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) here.

"In the future, any reactor it designates as ’military’ can be used for
the weapons programme,"
he said, questioning what Bush received in

Carnegie’s Cirincione was more blunt: "Pres. Bush has now given away the
store. He did everything but actually sell nuclear weapons to India."

Indeed, India, which, 32 years after its first nuclear test, is believed
to have accumulated about 50 nuclear weapons, could almost double that
arsenal each year with the plutonium produced by breeder reactors.

The Bush administration and its backers defend the accord as a major
advance on a variety of fronts. They point out that the agreement will
bring a significant part of India’s nuclear programme under
international safeguards for the first time and also enable New Delhi to
make improvements that will contribution to its overall safety and

They also stress that the construction of new nuclear power plants in
India will reduce its fast-growing economy’s reliance on fossil fuels.
Not only will that mean cheaper oil and gas for other energy-hungry
countries, but, according to the administration — with no hint of irony
— it will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to
global warming.

To most critics, these justifications ring remarkably hollow, and not
only because the administration has opposed efforts to mandate limits to
U.S. greenhouse emissions.

"Nuclear power plants, even at the officially projected level of 20,000
megawatts for the year 2020, are not going to significantly contribute
to solving India’s energy problems,"
according to Arjun Makhijani of the
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) here. The
percentage of India’s electricity generated by nuclear power would rise
from three percent to five percent, if projections are realised.

Rather, the main motivations for the deal appear to be both strategic
and economic.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal analysis, many of the largest
U.S. companies regard India as the "next big frontier" and have come to
believe that a nuclear accord "will open the way for a spate of deals,
not just in potential nuclear sales, but in everything from turbines and
jets to road construction".
These companies, which include General
Electric and Ford, among others, stand poised to lobby hard for
Congressional approval of the pact.

The strategic rationale — namely, the hope that India, along with
Japan, will become a strategic counterweight to China in Asia — may be
even more decisive, according to analysts here who note the fervent
interest shown by the Pentagon, and U.S. arms manufacturers, over the
last several years in cultivating New Delhi.

Indeed, this interest was underlined, as noted by the New York Times
Friday, by the Pentagon’s release of "an unusually explicit statement"
praising the deal as a way to enhance bilateral military cooperation,
including arms sales.

"Where only a few years ago, no one would have talked about the
prospects for a major U.S.-India defence deal,"
it said, "today the
prospects are promising, whether in the realm of combat aircraft,
helicopters, maritime patrol aircraft or naval vessels."

Not only will the deal enable India to accelerate its development of
nuclear weapons, but it may also contribute to an increase in tensions
between India and China, which, according to Circincione, is already
reported to be considering a similar accord with Pakistan another
nuclear power that has defied the NPT.

International Press Service