Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rice's Reassurances on India-NSG Negotiations Not Very Reassuring

At a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 13, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged that the United States will not support an agreement between India and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that contravenes U.S. law. At first glance, this appears to be a welcome clarification of the U.S. position on bilateral nuclear trade with India. Upon closer inspection, however, Rice’s statement obscures more than it reveals.

Rice’s pledge would be easier to accept if it did not fly in the face of the actual text of a March 2006 U.S. draft proposal calling for an India-specific exemption to the NSG guidelines. At present, India is seeking an NSG exemption without conditions. The U.S. draft proposal essentially supports this demand in so far as it allows individual NSG members to determine on their own if India is meeting its nonproliferation and safeguards commitments. Consequently, depending on the outcome of negotiations in the NSG, other NSG states may not have to adhere to the same restrictions and conditions as the United States when they craft their own nuclear cooperation agreements with India, thus putting the United States at a competitive disadvantage. This would contradict the Henry Hyde Act's requirement that "NSG members...act in concert in terms of the timing, scope, and safeguarding of nuclear supply to all countries, including India."

Furthermore, though Rice insists that the United States will support an agreement only if it is consistent with the Hyde Act, her reassurances must be evaluated in view of the disastrous concessions granted to India by the Bush administration during the negotiation and finalization of the 123 implementation agreement, several of which fail to uphold key provisions of U.S. law enshrined in the Hyde Act.

In sum, it will take more than Rice’s word to reassure skeptics, and supporters of common sense international standards for nuclear trade with India must continue to urge the President not to support any change to NSG guidelines pertaining to India that contravenes the Hyde Act.

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