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Seeds of Indian Proliferation

24 April, 2006

By Adnan Gill

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A country indulges in Nuclear Proliferation in one or two ways, as a donor or as a recipient. As a donor it can export the nuclear technology to other nation -- called 'Horizontal Proliferation' -- or it can divert technologies from its Civilian Nuclear Program(s) to its Military Nuclear Program(s) -- called 'Vertical Proliferation'. India is guilty of indulging in both, Vertical and Horizontal Nuclear Proliferation.

  Horizontal Proliferation occurs when a country exports its indigenous resources (knowledge/items) and/or when it practices 'Onward Proliferation.' Onward proliferation takes place when a country obtains a controlled item from overseas and retransfers it, or exports a reverse-engineered item without proper authorizations to a proliferant state or to a terrorist group. Proliferant states and smuggling networks use such tactics to avoid export controls in supplier states. Experts like David Albright, President of Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), believes proliferant states target Indian industries; consequently, Indian Onward Proliferation is expected be become a serious problem.

  Vertical Nuclear Proliferation occurs when a country diverts knowledge and/or items from its safeguarded programs to its military programs. David Albright in an October 26, 2005 testimony before the US House Committee described the Indian Vertical Proliferation as, "India's extensive military and civil nuclear programs are often connected, sharing personnel and infrastructure. In addition, some facilities currently have both a military and civilian purpose." The Indian so-called "peaceful nuclear explosion" (detonated on May 18, 1974) is a prime example of the Vertical Proliferation. The fact is also confirmed by an Indian scientist Raja Ramanna who admitted that the radioactive core of India's first nuclear device was the plutonium diverted from its American-Canadian supplied civilian nuclear reactor (CIRUS).

  Since 1949, as a recipient, India has licitly and illicitly received nuclear technology from 'Nuclear Supplier Group' (NSG) countries like France, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, United States and Soviet Union/Russia. The nuclear technology transferred to India in 1950s and 60s by NSG nations like the United States and Canada is directly credited to India's first nuclear weapon and its test (1974), a fact also confirmed by Indians themselves. For its part, India effortlessly proliferates the nuclear technology to countries like Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan and South Korea.

  Exploiting the dual-use nature of civilian nuclear equipments and materials India had been using the cover of civilian programs to produce nuclear weapons. Experts believe, as in the case of 1974 nuclear blast, the plutonium for at least some of India's nuclear devices tested in 1998 also originated from its American-Canadian supplied civilian nuclear reactor (CIRUS). In a June 15, 1998 Washington Post (p.A23) publication 'India Cheated', Victor Gilinsky and Paul Leventhal reported "You wouldn't know it from news reports, but most of the military plutonium stocks India dipped into for its recent nuclear tests came from a research project provided years ago by the United States and Canada. India had promised both countries it would not use this plutonium for bombs." India boldly violates non-proliferation conventions and brazenly breaks bilateral agreements by transferring nuclear fuels and technology from its so-called civilian nuclear programs to its nuclear weapons  programs.

  The so-called "Atoms for Peace" reactor was built by Canada and run by tons of heavy water supplied by the United States. In return for the reactor, India promised both suppliers in writing that the reactor would be reserved for "peaceful purposes" only. But in a display of barefaced defiance and belligerence, India broke its promise by diverting the plutonium from CIRUS to the manufacturing of nuclear weapons that were tested first in 1974 and then in 1998. The fact that neither Canada nor the United States has uttered a peep about India breaching the signed contract with contemptuous boldness is symptomatic of Western complicity in the building and modernization of Indian nuclear weapons arsenal through nuclear proliferation. Since it began operating in late 1950s the Indian CIRUS reactor alone has produced well over 600 pounds plutonium which is enough to build over 50 nuclear weapons. No wonder, the Indians do not take non-proliferation seriously.

  Strangely, despite Indian disposition to indulge in nuclear proliferation when or as they please, each new generation of American policymakers think that they will be able to gain Indian restraint and acceptance of nuclear controls by being a little more accommodating to them. The Indians long time ago learned of the American weaknesses that stem from a mix of an obsolete Cold War mentality and commercial greed. Hence, they effectively exploit this American weakness to build, expand and qualitatively improve their own nuclear arsenal.

  Indian perseverance in the acquisition of latest nuclear technology through covert and overt means, and its practice of proliferation of nuclear technology in both vertical and horizontal manners worries peace and non-proliferation experts. In light of unscrupulous and unrestrained Indian proliferation record, experts openly question Bush Administration's decision to transfer American nuclear secrets to India which can potentially compromise American national security due to Indian proliferation practices, including the 'Onward' proliferation. They argue that helping to ramp up India's ability to import and export controlled nuclear items can neither be in the interests of the

United States nor the global non-proliferation efforts.

  Since the March 2, 2006 Indo-US Nuclear deal, the Bush Administration and Indian government officials have mounted a deceptive PR blitz in which they tirelessly  hampion India's supposedly "impeccable" nonproliferation record. Factually, however, in order to buy into this sugarcoated propaganda, one would have to ignore and discount decades old Indian horizontal and vertical proliferation record that started in 1960s when India decided to dip into irradiated Plutonium from its civilian CIRUS plant. Not withstanding the deceptive Indo-Bush Administration propaganda, experts point to mounting evidence of Indian proliferation record. Recently, ISIS unmasked a well-developed, active, and top secret Indian program to outfit its uranium enrichment program and circumvent export control efforts of other countries.

  Essentially, the Indo-US Nuclear deal allows India to buy foreign-made nuclear reactors while allowing her to substantially ramp up her ability to produce materials for nuclear weapons. Understandably, the deal was widely criticized even within the Bush-Administration. In 2001, the, American ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill asked Washington to rethink its nuclear policy towards India. But Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, however, wanted a sensible incremental approach to increasing sensitive trade with India. In a 2003 interview Secretary Powell said, "We also have to protect certain red lines that we have with respect to proliferation."

  Leading nonproliferation experts of Bush Administration, John D. Rood and Robert G. Joseph tirelessly lobbied for a deal in which India would have agreed to limit production of plutonium and to place all of its electricity-producing reactors under permanent International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which would have been in accordance with the US laws too. But the Bush Administration was so intent on hammering a deal with India that by the time Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Washington, many of the key items on Mr. Rood's list had been taken off the table. Nuclear specialists in the US government say their concerns about weapons proliferation were overridden in final talks with India.

  Secretary Condoleezza Rice is believed to be the force behind the hurriedly concocted and potentially damaging Indo-US Nuclear deal, which will arguably compromise American nuclear secrets vis-à-vis its national security. Reportedly, the deal is a brainchild of Secretary Rice's counselor and longtime colleague Philip Zelikow and (a Bombay-born expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former aide to Blackwill) Ashley Tellis. On April 3, 2006, the Washington Post (p.A01) reported, "Upon Rice's return from Asia, Zelikow began exchanging memos with Tellis, resulting in a 50-page 'action agenda' for U.S.-Indian relations completed in mid-May." While making a case for India, in a memo Tellis argued, US would have to "help New Delhi develop strategic capabilities such that India's nuclear weaponry and associated delivery systems" to deter growing Chinese influence.

  The Post also revealed Bush Administration's maverick strategy of assisting India in developing nuclear weapons. It reported, "the Bush administration originally wanted a pact that would let India continue producing material for six to 10 weapons each year, [but the signed deal] would allow it enough fissile material for as many as 50 annually." The Indians were quick to pick on American desperation to conclude a deal. They outfoxed the Americans on negotiation table. The Post quoted a senior American official involved in the negotiation, the "Indians were incredibly greedy that day. They were getting 99 percent of what they asked for and still they pushed for 100." It was as if Bush Administration's sole goal was to please the Indians at any cost.

  Sadly, instead of forcing India to freeze its Vertical Proliferation, the US State Department had been helping India get around the laws by arranging for France and later China to continue the Tarapur radioactive fuel supply.  Considering Indian proliferation record, instead of rewarding India by signing the deal, at a minimum, Bush Administration should have insisted that Indian plutonium covered by "peaceful purposes" agreements be unavailable for nuclear weapons, and that the Tarapur fuel is not reprocessed to extract weapon grade plutonium. Under the 1963 agreement, India was bound to get US approval to reprocess the nuclear fuel. However, in a blatant disregard to the signed agreement, India disputed this and insisted it was free to reprocess the used fuel at any time. Regrettably, the US government as usual bowed to Indian demands fearing an irritant in US-India relations and dispatched the disagreement to the wastebasket of oblivion. Currently, there is enough  Tarapur plutonium to manufacture hundreds of unaccounted nuclear weapons.

  In March 2006, another ISIS report revealed details of Indian illicit and secret nuclear procurement program. The report effectively busted the myth of so-called 'indigenous' Indian nuclear program. The report highlighted the indisputable dependencies of Indian nuclear program on the foreign sources. It stated, "India has a long history of illicitly acquiring items for its own unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. Many of India's nuclear programs have depended on extensive foreign procurement for materials, equipment, and technology. Indian nuclear organizations use a system that hires domestic or foreign non-nuclear companies to acquire items for these nuclear organizations. Such procurement appears to continue for its secret gas centrifuge enrichment plant near Mysore."

  The report also cataloged the deceptive and illicit procurement network established by Indian Department of Atomic Energy. "In an attempt to hide its true purpose from suppliers and others when it started this project in the 1980s" Under the direction of India's Department of Atomic Energy, Indian Rare Earths (IRE) Ltd. of Mumbai, a public-sector undertaking focused on recovering minerals and processing rare earths, procures sensitive materials and technology for a secret gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant codenamed the 'Rare Materials Project' (RMP) outside Mysore, India. The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) operates the plant and appears to both coordinate procurements for this facility with IRE and pursue procurements for its own divisions through IRE. RMP itself is rarely acknowledged by the Indian government as a gas centrifuge plant."

  An impressive and resolute Indian proliferation record spans over five decades. The Indian nuclear program is developed, nourished and sustained by the Nuclear Supplier Group nations through direct and/or indirect assistance. Whenever Indian establishment failed to secure direct and/or indirect assistance from the NSG, it stole the nuclear technology through secret underground nuclear proliferation networks.

  Each state that covertly or overtly paddles nuclear technology to India makes mockery of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that entered into force on March 5, 1970. Article III – 2 of NPT states, "Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this article."

  Even though, India is not a NPT signatory it has constantly fought to undermine and weaken the NPT and IAEA charters. American and European nearsightedness and compliancy has directly resulted into Indian constancy in pursuing nuclear bomb-making and nuclear proliferation. It is not surprising that the Indians expect the game of proliferation to continue.

  Practically every nuclear reactor running or planned in India is either provided and/or built by a foreign country or had been designed from foreign blueprints -- stolen and otherwise. Every ounce for the radioactive cores of Indian nuclear weapons comes from the nuclear reactors that India deceptively, legally or illegally secured from foreign nations.

  Pointing to the serious risks posed to the American national security, in his October 26, 2005, testimony before the House Committee on International Relations Hearing on the US-India David Albright warned, "This agreement could pose serious risks to the security of the United States. If fully implemented, it could catapult India into a position as a major supplier of both nuclear and nuclear-related materials, equipment, and technology. With a weak and poorly enforced export control system, [Indians] could become major suppliers to the nuclear weapon programs of adversaries of the United States, in some cases possibly using technology which the United Sates originally provided." India also has a huge manpower trained in nuclear secrets, which inherently makes it a considerable knowledge transfer risk.

  Non-proliferation experts insist that India should be sanctioned for its proliferation record. To support their argument, they cite statements of Indian statesmen who admitted that the fears of international sanctions kept the nuclear weapons program in low-gear. The former Indian President Venkataraman said, all " preparations for an underground nuclear test at Pokhran had been completed in 1983 when I was the Defense Minister. It was shelved because of international pressure, and the same thing happened in 1995." Another example cited is of former Indian Prime Minister Gujral, "the Americans got in touch with Mr. (Prime Minister) Rao and for some reasons it was felt expedient to postpone the tests... It was a major decision where all dimensions and aspects had to be calculated. No decision could be taken in a hurry ignoring all the political, economic and international relations dimensions."

  When it comes to Nuclear Proliferation India suffers from credibility problem. In a May 13, 1998, testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs then Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth explained how Indian government can not be trusted with its mere assurances. "We were told privately and publicly that India would continue to show restraint in the non-proliferation field, and would do nothing to surprise us" As a direct result of India's decisions and actions, we are now compelled to look again at our approach to India," said Mr. Inderfurth.

  Stung from Indian deceptions, after the 1998 nuclear test at Pokhran, Secretary Inderfurth advised Congress to coarse India in parting ways with its shadowy proliferation practices and encouraged it to become a responsible nation that respects non-proliferation norms. He said, "Instead of highlighting our cooperative efforts with India... we will now need to put much of the cooperative side of our agenda on hold and deal with the consequences of India's actions. We must focus anew on seeking a meaningful Indian commitment to cease from further testing, to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty immediately and without qualifications, and to respect other international non-proliferation norms." Emphasizing the difficulty in trusting India, Secretary Inderfurth also advised the Senate Subcommittee that due to dishonorable Indian practices the US should revaluate its relations with India, "We will need to assess how we will deal with India in accordance with Glenn Amendment  and other U.S. laws, which require sanctions far more restrictive than those placed upon Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment" I must caution that India's actions have made [engagements] far more difficult."

  Indian culpability in every step of Nuclear Proliferation cannot be ignored anymore. Instead of rewarding it for proliferating nuclear secrets and technologies to other nations and to build its nuclear weapons arsenal, IAEA and NSG will have to place sanctions on it to or, at minimum, slow down its mad pursuit of becoming a nuclear superpower. On account of Indian hegemonic behavior towards its neighbors and its inherent domestic instability steaming from a society built on racial/communal discriminations, the World Community cannot afford lose nukes from an unreliable and potentially fractured nation, like it almost witnessed when the Soviet Union was fractured.


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