Atoms for War? U.S.-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India's Nuclear Arsenal

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  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Atoms for War? U.S.-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India's Nuclear Arsenal - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace



    Atoms for War? U.S.-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India's Nuclear Arsenal


    Among the most serious criticisms leveled at the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation initiative agreed to by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is that it would enable India to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal. This criticism rests upon two crucial assumptions:


    ■that New Delhi in fact seeks the largest nuclear weapons inventory its capacity and resources permit; and,
    ■the Indian desire for a larger nuclear arsenal has been stymied thus far by a shortage of natural uranium.
    Atoms for War? US-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India's Nuclear Arsenal by Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggests both these assumptions are deeply flawed. The study concludes that:

    ■India is currently separating far less weapons grade plutonium annually than it has the capability to produce. The evidence, which suggests that the Government of India is in no hurry to build the biggest nuclear stockpile it could construct based on material factors alone, undermines the assumption that India wishes to build the biggest nuclear arsenal it possibly can;
    ■Further, India's capacity to produce a huge nuclear arsenal is not affected by prospective U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation. The research in this report concludes that: India already has the indigenous reserves of natural uranium necessary to undergird the largest possible nuclear arsenal it may desire and, consequently, the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation initiative will not materially contribute towards New Delhi's strategic capacities in any consequential way either directly or by freeing up its internal resources; that the current shortage of natural uranium in India caused by constrictions in its mining and milling capacity is a transient problem that is in the process of being redressed. The U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement proposed by President Bush does not in any way affect the Government of India's ability to upgrade its uranium mines and milling facilities—as it is currently doing. As such, the short-term shortage does not offer a viable basis either for Congress to extort any concessions from India in regards to its weapons program or for supporting the petty canard that imported natural uranium will lead to a substantial increase in the size of India's nuclear weapons program.




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    The following is a summary by Ashley J. Tellis. Click on the icon above for the full text of the report.

    Among the most serious criticisms leveled at the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation initiative agreed to by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is that it would enable India to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal. This criticism rests upon two crucial assumptions: that New Delhi in fact seeks the largest nuclear weapons inventory its capacity and resources permit; and, the Indian desire for a larger nuclear arsenal has been stymied thus far by a shortage of natural uranium.

    Atoms for War? U.S.-Indian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation and India’s Nuclear Arsenal by Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggests that both these assumptions are deeply flawed. To begin with, the study concludes that India is currently separating about 24-40 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium annually, far less than it has the capability to produce. This evidence, which suggests that the Government of India is in no hurry to build the biggest nuclear stockpile it could construct based on material factors alone, undermines the assumption that India wishes to build the biggest nuclear arsenal it possibly can.

    Further, India’s capacity to produce a huge nuclear arsenal is not affected by prospective U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation. A few facts underscore this conclusion clearly. India is widely acknowledged to possess reserves of 78,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU). The forthcoming Carnegie study concludes that the total inventory of natural uranium required to sustain all the reactors associated with the current power program (both those operational and those under construction) and the weapons program over the entire notional lifetime of these plants runs into some 14,640-14,790 MTU—or, in other words, requirements that are well within even the most conservative valuations of India’s reasonably assured uranium reserves. If the eight reactors that India has retained outside of safeguards were to allocate 1/4 of their cores for the production of weapons-grade materials—the most realistic possibility for the technical reasons discussed at length in the forthcoming report—the total amount of natural uranium required to run these facilities for the remaining duration of their notional lives would be somewhere between 19,965-29,124 MTU. If this total is added to the entire natural uranium fuel load required to run India’s two research reactors dedicated to the production of weapons-grade plutonium over their entire life cycle—some 938-1088 MTU—the total amount of natural uranium required by India’s dedicated weapons reactors and all its unsafeguarded PHWRs does not exceed 20,903-30,212 MTU over the remaining lifetime of these facilities. Operating India’s eight unsafeguarded PHWRs in this way would bequeath New Delhi with some 12,135-13,370 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, which is sufficient to produce between 2,023-2,228 nuclear weapons over and above those already existing in the Indian arsenal.
    The research in this report concludes that the total amount of natural uranium required to fuel all Indian reactors, on the assumption that eight of them would be used for producing weapons-grade materials in 1/4 of their cores, would be crudely speaking somewhere between 26,381 and 35,690 MTU over the remaining lives of all these facilities—a requirement that lies well within India’s assured uranium reserves howsoever these are disaggregated. In sum, India has the indigenous reserves of natural uranium necessary to undergird the largest possible nuclear arsenal it may desire and, consequently, the U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation initiative will not materially contribute towards New Delhi’s strategic capacities in any consequential way either directly or by freeing up its internal resources.

    This conclusion notwithstanding, India does face a current shortage of natural uranium caused by constrictions in its mining and milling capacity. This deficit, however, represents a transient problem that is in the process of being redressed. It should be borne in mind that the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement proposed by President Bush does not in any way affect the Government of India’s ability to upgrade its uranium mines and milling facilities—as it is currently doing. All this implies that the shortages of uranium fuel experienced by India presently are a near-term aberration, and not an enduring limitation resulting from the dearth of physical resources. As such, they do not offer a viable basis either for Congress to extort any concessions from India in regards to its weapons program or for supporting the petty canard that imported natural uranium will lead to a substantial increase in the size of India’s nuclear weapons program.

    Ashley J. Tellis is a senior associate specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is co-author of Strategic Asia 2005-06: Military Modernization in an Era of Uncertainty.
     
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  3. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    Accepting a Nuclear India


    India shouldn’t have to accept restrictions that don’t apply to other Nuclear Suppliers Group members. It’s time to recognize India’s goodwill—and good record.


    [​IMG]

    The international community is now looking at how best to bring India into multilateral nuclear export control regimes. During his November 2010 visit to India, US President Barack Obama delivered a number of speeches and issued a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that contained some significant policy pronouncements, particularly over the accommodation of India in US and multilateral export control regimes.

    Obama announced, for example, that the United States would support India’s candidature in the four multilateral export control regimes—the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. India meets all the criteria for membership of the MTCR, although it may have to add a few items to its dual use technology control list to meet the criteria for the Australia Group. But for membership in the strategically key NSG and Wassenaar Arrangement, there’s a significant sticking point in the form of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

    After Obama’s announcement supporting India’s membership, France and Russia also offered their support, and the idea that India might be given membership incrementally gained some traction. It was generally believed that the Australia Group would come first, followed by the MTCR and the NSG and the Wassenaar Arrangement in that order. However, the Indian establishment wants membership to come as a package, a position broadly supported by the Indian strategic community. As this message has been sent out around the world, concerned global players have two options: either deny or accept India’s membership of all regimes.

    And, with India’s economy performing well even during the global financial crisis (and with it being an equally important producer, client and consumer of advanced technology) other nations may well have no choice but to accommodate India. Indeed, the process of accommodation seems to have already begun. Analysts and non-governmental experts are being consulted over how India might best be included in the regimes, and although there’s so far little news on official interactions, the fact that the non-governmental community has been sounded out has prompted much speculation.

    Unfortunately, the ongoing counter-arguments to accommodating India’s position were given voice in a short essay entitled ‘NSG Membership: A Criteria-based Approach for Non-NPT States,’ penned by Pierre Goldschmidt for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    Although the essay maintains a semblance of objectivity, it sadly reflects the prejudice prevalent in parts of the US non-proliferation community. The very first paragraph, for example, opens with the cliché: ‘The nuclear policy community widely believes this (the 2008 NSG guidelines) exemption undermines the credibility of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.’ But while some point to the China-Pakistan deal for building additional reactors at the Chashma complex as an example of what US accommodating of India has led to, even a novice in the field should know that Pakistan and China would have cut the deal irrespective of the India-specific exemptions. After all, the Pakistan-China deal was made on the basis of a grandfather clause of a previous unseen agreement, while it’s hard to believe that Pakistan's blocking of negotiations for the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty at last year’s Conference on Disarmament wouldn’t have happened anyway.

    Goldschmidt did at least propose a set of 14 criteria for membership of the NSG for non-NPT countries which would, in his words, ‘correct the inequality created by the Indian exception’. But while 11 of the criteria are already part of Indian policy, the other three look unrealistic and may not be taken seriously in India as they look designed simply to constrain it.

    The problem is the Goldschmidt essay persists in pursuing the unfinished agenda of the July 2005 agreement of the anti-India non-proliferation lobby. Thus, the second criteria proposes that: ‘To become a full member of the NSG, a non-NPT state must…have in force a Voluntary Offer Agreement (VOA) with the International Atomic Energy Agency whereby the non-NPT State undertakes to place all new nuclear facilities located outside existing military nuclear sites on the list of facilities to be safeguarded by the IAEA…’ This amounts to a reopening of the separation plan, something that’s clearly unacceptable to India.

    In addition, Goldschmidt seems to expect India to take on obligations that haven’t been assumed by members of the NSG. But it’s beyond comprehension, for example, why India shouldn’t be allowed to develop nuclear weapons for its security. Has any other nuclear weapon country given an assurance it won’t do so to gain NSG membership? And when China was made a member, where was the fuss over the fact that it was then in the news for supplying nuclear and missile items to non-NPT and non-nuclear weapons states? Interestingly, not only the US government, but also a significant slice of the US non-proliferation community went mute as Chinese proliferation was downplayed and the country was declared an important stakeholder of the non-proliferation system.

    To resolve the challenge posed by the NPT criteria, the best solution would be to amend the NPT and accommodate India as a nuclear weapon state. India already has good standing with treaty provisions, something that could be factored in pending membership. After becoming a nuclear weapons state, for example, India declared its intention to unilaterally follow articles I, III and VI of the NPT.

    The reality is that India won’t modify its strategy of ambiguous nuclear weapon status for NSG membership. If it’s serious about non-proliferation, therefore, the international community should accommodate India, while avoiding recommending any steps that would benefit proliferators like Pakistan. Failure to follow this course will only further undermine the already damaged credibility of the non-proliferation community.

    Rajiv Nayan is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses) in New Delhi. This is an edited and abridged version of an article that was originally published by the organization here.
     
  4. sesha_maruthi27

    sesha_maruthi27 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nice move strategically. We should move very cautiosly with America and its allies.
     

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