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US Responsible For Nuclear Proliferation to India

The story of how India acquired nuclear weapons gets almost no attention in the Western media as they continue to focus on nuclear proliferation by Pakistan's AQ Khan.

The nuclear proliferation narrative in the mainstream American and European media begins with A.Q. Khan's network rather than the actors in North America and Europe as the original proliferators of nuclear weapons equipment, materials and technology to India in 1960s and 1970s. These nuclear exports from US to India continued for several years even after the Indian nuclear test in 1974.

The real story, as recounted by Paul Leventhal of The Nuclear Control Institute, begins with the US and Canada supplying nuclear reactors and fuel to India in 1960s. As the story unfolds, we learn that the spent fuel from Canadian Cirus reactor was reprocessed into bomb-grade plutonium using a reprocessing plant provided by an American-European consortium, and later used to explode India's first atom bomb at Pokhran in 1974. This is the key event in South Asia that led to Pakistan's pursuit of nuclear weapons culminating in nuclear tests by both India and Pakistan in 1998.

Here are some key excerpts from Paul Leventhal's presentation to Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington DC on December 19, 2005:

CIRUS (Canadian reactor supplied to India) holds a very special place in nonproliferation history and the development of US nonproliferation policy. This needs to be understood if we are to do the right thing in working out a new nuclear relationship with India.

My own personal involvement in this history and policy began with a telephone call I received 31 years ago on a May morning in 1974 when I was a young staffer on the U.S. Senate Government Operations Committee. It was from a Congressional liaison officer of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission who said he was calling to inform me that India had just conducted a nuclear test and to assure me that "the United States had absolutely nothing to do with it."

At that time, I was working on legislation to reorganize the AEC into separate regulatory and promotional agencies. I had begun investigating the weapons potential of nuclear materials being used in the U.S. Atoms for Peace program, both at home and abroad. The official wanted me to know there was no need to consider remedial legislation on nuclear exports because the plutonium used in India's test came not from the safeguarded nuclear power plant at Tarapur, supplied by the United States, but from the unsafeguarded Cirus research reactor near Bombay, supplied by Canada. "This is a Canadian problem, not ours," he said.

It took me two years to discover that the information provided me that day was false. The United States, in fact, had supplied the essential heavy-water component that made the Cirus reactor operable, but decided to cover up the American supplier role and let Canada "take the fall" for the Indian test. Canada promptly cut off nuclear exports to India, but the United States did not.

In 1976, when the Senate committee uncovered the U.S. heavy-water export to India and confronted the State Department on it, the government's response was another falsehood: the heavy water supplied by the U.S., it said, had leaked from the reactor at a rate of 10% a year, and had totally depleted over 10 years by the time India produced the plutonium for its test.

But the committee learned from Canada that the actual heavy-water loss rate at Cirus was less than 1% a year, and we learned from junior-high-school arithmetic that even a 10%- a-year loss rate doesn't equal 100% after 10 years. Actually, more than 90% of the original U.S. heavy water was still in the Cirus reactor after 10 years, even if it took India a decade to produce the test plutonium---itself a highly fanciful notion.

We also learned that the reprocessing plant where India had extracted the plutonium from Cirus spent fuel, described as "indigenous" in official U.S. and Indian documents, in fact had been supplied by an elaborate and secret consortium of U.S. and European companies.

Faced with this blatant example of the Executive Branch taking Congress for the fool, the Senate committee drafted and Congress eventually enacted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Paul Leventhal's story about India's diversion of civilian nuclear programs to build weapons is corroborated by other sources such as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and the Wisconsin Project.

Unfortunately, not much has changed in Washington since 1974 as the duplicitous US policy of "non-proliferation" continues to this day. Washington never talks about the Israeli nuclear weapons and the US administration continues to raise objections to the Chinese sale of nuclear power plants to Pakistan which is suffering from crippling energy deficits. Meanwhile, the 2009 US-India nuclear deal legitimizes India as a nuclear weapons state and encourages continuing Indian buildup of its nuclear arsenal even as the US targets Iran for its alleged efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's "Indigenous" Copies of Foreign Nukes and Missiles

India's Nuclear Bomb by George Perkovich

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Cyberwars Across India, Pakistan and China

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Space Capabilities

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Scientist Reveals Indian Nuke Test Fizzled

The Wisconsin Project

The Non-Proliferation Review Fall 1997

India, Pakistan Comparison 2010

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Global Firepower Comparison

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Views: 72

Tags: India, Nuclear, Proliferation, USA

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 13, 2011 at 10:20pm

Here's George Perkovich, author of "India's Nuclear Bomb", on the India-US nuclear deal:

Do you think it’s a good agreement?

No. I think it’s flawed for a number of reasons. I have colleagues and friends in the non-proliferation community who think any such agreement with India would be a disaster. I think India’s economic development and overall development is so important from a world historical point of view that we should do a lot to facilitate it. My problem is this particular agreement is first of all, the administration failed to establish criteria under which countries which haven’t signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty could come in to a broader non-proliferation set of rules and not be outside of this system. The three countries that haven’t signed the NPT are India, Israel, and Pakistan. What we should have done in my view is say “Here are criteria for each of those that if each of those countries met, they could get some form of increased nuclear cooperation with us.” Instead of offering criteria like that, the administration is just going to change the rules for India. There aren’t even really criteria here. The United States is just saying “They’re our buddies, they’re our friends. Let’s change the rules.” And it leaves Pakistan and Israel still out in no-man’s land. Why is that important? If you add criteria, such as a country is a democracy, it doesn’t support terrorist organizations, it has tight nuclear export controls, India would meet them and Pakistan wouldn’t meet them today, but it would give Pakistan an incentive to change behavior because it could then qualify and the same with Israel.

But by treating India as an exception, it just reflects the Bush administration’s general disdain for a rule-based international system. It’s typical of this overall policy of “We’re going to do what we want and the heck with what others think and we’ll basically use our power to change rules when we think they need to be changed.” There are other problems with it too. The main one is that the administration didn’t really seek and didn’t get any agreement by India to limit its production of nuclear weapons, so at this point in world history I think we’re at a point where we ought to be able to say “No country is building additional nuclear weapons, no country needs additional nuclear weapons.” We should be able to say that we understand that India and Pakistan have theirs but at least let’s stop producing more of those things. We didn’t get it and we didn’t seek it because some in the administration actually want India to build more nuclear weapons as a counter to China. I think that’s a mistake.

http://www.cfr.org/india/perkovich-proliferation-trilogy-north-kore...

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 12, 2012 at 8:37am

If the past is any guide, it's quite safe to assume that Pakistan will continue to effectively respond to all military threats to its security and assert its power ...be it nukes, missiles, satellites, fighter jets, drones, nuke subs, etc. Talking about India's nuke sub, it's just a matter of time before Pakistan launches its own nuclear subs to complete the nuclear triad. Let there be no doubt on this point.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/03/pakistans-growing-defense-industry.html

When it comes to eating grass to build nukes, all of the available data from international sources shows that many Indians can't even find grass to eat, as hundreds of millions of Indians go to bed hungry every night.

Here's a quote from Times of India poking fun at the superpower claim:

With 21% of its population undernourished, nearly 44% of under-5 children underweight and 7% of them dying before they reach five years, India is firmly established among the world's most hunger-ridden countries. The situation is better than only Congo, Chad, Ethiopia or Burundi, but it is worse than Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan or Nepal.

Today India has 213 million hungry and malnourished people by GHI estimates although the UN agency Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) puts the figure at around 230 million. The difference is because FAO uses only the standard calorie intake formula for measuring sufficiency of food while the Hunger Index is based on broader criteria.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-01-15/india/306296...

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 12, 2012 at 9:19am

Here's a DefenseNews report on Pakistan's rumored nuclear submarine project:

...Mansoor Ahmed, a lecturer at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University who specializes
in nonconventional weapons and missiles, believes the reports are the result of a
calculated leak by the Navy, and that a message may be being sent to India.

“This news … appears to be some kind of signaling to the Indians seeing as they are taking delivery of a new nuclear-powered
submarine from the Russians as well as their own Arihant Class SSBN,” he said.

“So Pakistan is signaling to the Indians that they are mindful of these developments and taking due measures in response.”

Ahmed said he has for some time believed Pakistan was working on a nuclear propulsion system for submarine applications and that Pakistan already has a functional submarine launched variant of
the Babur cruise missile.

The Babur cruise missile is very similar to the U.S. BGM-109 Tomahawk, and perhaps derives at least some technology from Tomahawks which crashed in Pakistan
during U.S. strikes on al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1998. It can be armed with conventional or nuclear
warheads.

Ahmed believes Pakistan is now gearing up to build its own SSN/SSGN flotilla as a way
of deterring India and maintaining the strategic balance in South Asia.

However, in the long term in order to fully ensure the credibility of its deterrent Ahmed said he believes Pakistan should
build ballistic missile submarines.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20120211/DEFREG03/302110003/Paki...|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 16, 2012 at 8:45pm

Here's a Times of India story on Indian Navy's submarine plans:

While India is still years away from getting an AIP-equipped submarine, Pakistan already has one in the shape of PNS Hamza, one of the three French Agosta-90B submarines inducted by it over the last decade. Moreover, work is also underway to retrofit the French "Mesma" AIP in hulls of the other two submarines, PNS Khalid and PNS Saad.

The six new-generation submarines from China, the improved Yuan-class boats with "Stirling-cycle" AIP, will further add a punch to Pakistan's underwater warfare capabilities.

India, in sharp contrast, has so far refused to consider the Mesma AIP option in the ongoing Rs 23,562-crore project (P-75) to build six French Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Docks (MDL), already running three years' behind schedule with the boats now slated to roll out from 2015 to 2020.

"There has also been a huge cost escalation. To incorporate the steam-based Mesma AIP in the 5th and 6th Scorpenes would cost another $100 million or so," said a senior defence ministry official.

"Moreover, Navy is more keen on fuel-cell AIP. DRDO is developing one such system, which has been tested on shore. If it comes through, it can be considered for the 5th and 6th Scorpenes," he added.

To further compound matters, there is excruciatingly slow progress on P-75I, which envisages acquisition of six new stealth submarines, equipped with both tube-launched missiles for land-attack capabilities as well as AIP, for over Rs 50,000 crore.

The RFP (request for proposal) to be issued to foreign collaborators like Rosoboronexport ( Russia), DCNS (France), HDW (Germany) and Navantia (Spain) will be possible only towards end-2011 at the earliest.

"If one foreign shipyard can give AIP, it cannot provide land-attack missile capabilities, and vice-versa. So, P-75I is very complex...it will take at least two years to even finalize it, and another six-seven years after that for the first submarine to be ready," he said.

The plan till now is to directly import two submarines from a foreign collaborator, with three being built at MDL in Mumbai, and the sixth at Hindustan Shipyard in Visakhapatnam under transfer of technology.

Incidentally, Navy will have only five of its existing 10 Russian Kilo-class and four German HDW submarines by 2020. Consequently, even with the six Scorpenes, India will be far short of its operational requirement of at least 18 conventional submarines for the foreseeable future.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-04-11/india/294059...

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 4, 2012 at 9:17pm

Here's a Guardian report on German Nobel Laureate's criticism of Israel & its western backers:

German Nobel literature laureate Günter Grass labelled Israel a threat to "already fragile world peace" in a poem published on Wednesday that drew sharp rebukes at home and from Israel.

In the poem, titled What Must be Said, published in German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Italy's La Repubblica among others, Grass criticises what he describes as western hypocrisy over Israel's own suspected nuclear programme amid speculation it might engage in military action against Iran to stop it building an atomic bomb.

The 84-year-old Grass said he had been prompted to put pen to paper by Berlin's recent decision to sell Israel a submarine able to "send all-destroying warheads where the existence of a single nuclear bomb is unproven".

"The nuclear power Israel is endangering the already fragile world peace," he wrote. His poem specifically criticises Israel's "claim to the right of a first strike" against Iran.

Grass also called for "unhindered and permanent control of Israel's nuclear capability and Iran's atomic facilities through an international body".

Grass did not mention calls for the destruction of Israel that have been made by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but obliquely referred to the Iranian people being "subjugated by a loudmouth".

Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but has never admitted it, pursuing instead an official policy of "ambiguity" to deter potential attackers.

Israel has three Dolphin submarines from Germany – one half-funded and two entirely funded by Berlin – two more are under construction, and the contract for a sixth submarine was signed last month.

Dolphin-class submarines can carry nuclear-tipped missiles, but there is no evidence Israel has armed them with such weapons.

Iran insists it only seeks nuclear power for energy and medical research.

Grass said he long kept silent on Israel's own nuclear programme because his country committed "crimes that are without comparison", but he has come to see that silence as a "burdensome lie and a coercion" whose disregard carries a punishment – "the verdict 'antisemitism' is commonly used".

The left-leaning Grass established himself as a leading literary figure with The Tin Drum, published in 1959, and won the Nobel Prize in 1999. He urged fellow Germans to confront their painful Nazi history in the decades after the second world war.
-----------
"Iran is the threat for world peace – and Israel the only democracy in the entire region, and at the same time the world's only whose right to exist is openly questioned," said Charlotte Knobloch, a former leader of Germany's Jewish community.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a staunch ally of Israel, and her spokesman reacted coolly to Grass's remarks.

"There is artistic freedom in Germany, and there thankfully also is the freedom of the government not to have to comment on every artistic production," Steffen Seibert said.

The head of the German parliament's foreign affairs committee – lawmaker Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats – told the daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that Grass was a great author "but he always has difficulties when he speak about politics and mostly gets it wrong".

"The country that worries us is Iran," he was quoted as saying, adding that "his poem distracts attention from that".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/apr/04/gunter-grass-poetry-att...

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 28, 2012 at 9:38pm

Here's Michael Krepon in armscontrolwonk.com on the results of US-India nuclear deal:

The only true believers in the civil-nuclear deal, besides its U.S. boosters, were the stewards of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. After the deal was struck, Pakistan’s requirements for credible deterrence, which were set high to begin with, appear to have grown higher still. Three related developments seem especially noteworthy: the start-up of construction on a fourth plutonium production reactor to increase Pakistan’s inventory of nuclear weapons, the imposition of a veto against negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty, and the explicit requirement for battlefield, or tactical, nuclear weapons. The first two appear to have been a direct consequence of the deal; the third was a consequence of the Indian military’s adoption of a “pro-active” defense doctrine (known as “Cold Start” in some circles) and a growing disparity in Indian and Pakistani conventional capabilities, as well as the deal.

The civ-nuke deal added insult to injury in Pakistan, where it was perceived as providing an international escort for India to sit at the high table of states possessing nuclear weapons, while leaving Pakistan out in the cold. The deal was characterized as a threat to national security because it permitted a significant influx of foreign-origin nuclear power plants and fuel; because Indian authorities stated their intention to build eight new, unsafeguarded domestic power plants; and because India’s breeder-reactor program would produce a flood of new fissile material.

These worst-case planning factors have not panned out. True, India has purchased uranium from abroad for its power plants, freeing up domestic material for bomb-making, but the Indian Parliament continues to resist liability limits for foreign companies, which stands in the way of power-plant construction for the United States and other sellers. Domestic construction of power plants also remains in the doldrums, and the ambitious plans of India’s Department of Atomic Energy for breeder reactors are as suspect as those of the Defense Research and Development Organization for the development of tanks, planes, and missiles. [For a withering critique of the DAE and DRDO, see Verghese Koithara’s outstanding new book, Managing India’s Nuclear Forces (2012).]

DRDO’s promises have become even more wildly optimistic under the leadership of Dr. V.K. Saraswat, who is now promoting effective, near-term ballistic missile defenses for Delhi and Mumbai. Just as few in the Pakistani media question their military’s nuclear requirements, few in the Indian media question the claims of DRDO and DAE. Instead, they serve as a transmission belt and lobbying arm for these enclaves.
-------------
The civil-nuclear deal and DRDO’s record of poor performance suggest that it would be wise to avoid unduly optimistic and pessimistic assessments about Indian missile defenses. Nonetheless, U.S. technology transfers for BMD, like the civ-nuke deal, would have little up-side potential and considerable down-side risk. These transfers would not help India produce an effective missile-defense system, nor change New Delhi’s embrace of strategic autonomy. They would, however, add further impetus to a three-cornered nuclear arms competition in southern Asia. President Obama has not endorsed BMD transfers, but President Romney might.

http://krepon.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/3498/the-next-civ-nuke-deal

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 30, 2013 at 9:25am

Here's an excerpt of Christine Fair's Op Ed in Time Magazine:

...This author opposed the 2005 U.S.-India nuclear deal for several reasons.

First, I thought it hurt the goal of nuclear nonproliferation to let India into the nuclear club while elsewhere trying to tighten the noose to keep Iran out.

Second, while I support strong U.S.-India ties, I was not persuaded that the deal would open the door to deeper U.S. and Indian strategic cooperation and American weapons sales to India as promised.

Third, I was annoyed at the misrepresentations made by its proponents during numerous congressional hearings on the subject.

Fourth, I understood that it would give Pakistan wiggle room regarding its nuclear aspirations.

Finally, I anticipated that should Pakistan fail to secure such a deal, it would likely work to sabotage everything the United States was trying to do in Afghanistan. After all, Pakistan sees itself as paying a heavy price for supporting the U.S., while India reaps rewards without such cost.

If the United States wants one last chance of salvaging a relationship with Pakistan, it should put on the table a conditions-based, civilian-nuclear deal. Whereas the deal with India was motivated by a desire to work with India, in the region and beyond, to manage China’s rise, this deal with Pakistan would be aimed to slowly wean it from its jihad addiction and work with Pakistan to secure the command and control and ultimate safety of its expanding nuclear weapons. It should be recalled that the India-U.S. nuclear deal remains a work in progress, even though the deal was announced in 2005—some eight years ago.

Pakistan’s leaders note, in private, that they really do not need the United States because they have China. That claim is hollow. China only provides loans and engages Pakistan on extractive terms to service its own goals. Its weapons systems are of uneven quality and generally are no match for American systems. Worse yet, China cannot confer legitimacy to Pakistan’s nuclear program, as the United States can as it did for India.

Putting this on the negotiating table with Pakistan should have a clarifying effect. If Pakistan is unwilling to give up its jihadi assets for this enormous offer, the United States will understand that there is literally nothing in its tool box that can help coax Pakistan off the trajectory of a rogue state that terrorizes its citizens at home and others abroad.

“Scrotal Fortitude”

To increase the likelihood that Pakistan would take such a deal, Pakistan should also be made to understand that while the United States is willing to reward Pakistan, it is also prepared to come down upon Pakistan with the full intent of containing the threats it poses. This list of negative inducements should be specific and targeted. There is little doubt that policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch alike will have to garner the requisite scrotal fortitude to make good on these threats. Alas, the U.S. track record on this front is abysmal....
-----------
Inside Pakistan, such a profound policy shift will require its strategic elites to imagine a different future for their nation. Pakistanis are wary and distrustful of the Americans. Giving up nuclear-backed jihadi assets is a big “ask.” Consensus to do so may be slow in the coming, and may never come at all.

But Americans should not presume that all Pakistanis want this dystopic future. Washington should find and reach out to those Pakistanis who understand the growing cost of past and current policies. Those folks, alas, are Pakistan’s lone hope and prospects for change.

http://nation.time.com/2013/04/30/is-salvaging-the-u-s-pakistan-rel...

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