President Bush with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
At a time when the U.S. is desperate to contain nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, President Bush has signed off on legislation that allows for nuclear trade with India, a nation that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The deal squares with this administration’s nuclear policy, which has been at its best inconsistent and at its worst catastrophically negligent.
In defense of the agreement, Bush said the world’s largest democracy had conducted its nuclear program responsibly.
The bill carves out an exemption in U.S. law to allow civilian nuclear trade with India in exchange for Indian safeguards and inspections at its 14 civilian nuclear plants. Eight military plants, however, would remain off-limits to the inspections.
The House and Senate had overwhelmingly approved the nuclear cooperation bill, giving Bush a foreign policy victory at a time when the administration is struggling to come up with a new approach to the unpopular war in Iraq.
Critics worry the agreement could spark a nuclear arms race in Asia by boosting India’s atomic arsenal. They also argue that the measure undermines international efforts to prevent states like Iran and North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons. In Beijing on Monday, North Korea defiantly declared itself a nuclear power at the start of the first full international arms talks since its atomic test in July and threatened to increase its arsenal if its demands were not met.
The White House said it was willing to make an exception for India, the world’s largest democracy, because it had protected its nuclear technology and not been a proliferator.