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US to scrap nuclear deal if India tests weapons

(Asia Pacific News) WASHINGTON : The United States will scrap a landmark deal to export civilian nuclear fuel and technology to India if New Delhi conducts an atomic weapons test, the State Department said Tuesday.

The statement came as the two governments gave different interpretations of the controversial nuclear deal’s recently adopted operating agreement, also known as the 123 agreement.

“The proposed 123 agreement has provisions in it that in an event of a nuclear test by India, then all nuclear cooperation is terminated, as well as there is provision for return of all materials, including reprocessed material covered by the agreement,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

His comment came as US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the deal Tuesday by telephone.

Singh told parliament on Monday that the agreement would not affect the Asian giant’s military program or any plans to test nuclear weapons.

He said “the agreement does not in any way affect India’s right to undertake future nuclear tests, if it is necessary.”

The operating agreement was officially approved by the two governments about two weeks ago after discussions spanning two years.

But US law also requires mandatory Congress approval of the pact, which legislators have vowed to go scrutinise.

Last year, the lawmakers approved in principle the “Henry Hyde Act” allowing transfer of civilian nuclear fuel and technology to India in a move to reverse decades of sanctions imposed after India’s nuclear tests.

Despite McCormack’s statement Tuesday, there is no mention however of the word “test” in the “termination and cessation of cooperation” clause of the operating agreement, copies of which have been made public.

Unlike virtually every other 123 agreement which the United States has with other countries, the one with India does not explicitly state that if New Delhi conducts a nuclear test, Washington has the right to terminate nuclear cooperation and demand the return of equipment and technology, US weapons
experts said.

The termination cause says only that “the party seeking termination has the right to cease further cooperation…if it determines that a mutually acceptable resolution of outstanding issues has not been possible or cannot be achieved through consultations.”

New Delhi is trying to argue that the 123 agreement does not in any way limit India’s fissile material production or nuclear testing options, experts said.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, is attempting to point out that if India tests, the United States would have to, as the Hyde Act requires, end nuclear cooperation with India, they said.

“Both governments are trying to spin this in a way that addresses the concerns of their parliaments and both governments simply cannot be correct,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the US Arms Control Association, told AFP.

“What is happening is that the Singh government and the Bush administration are trying to have it both ways,” he said.

“I think the problem here with this 123 agreement is that it is too ambiguous in all of the key areas.”

It was such ambiguity that led to problems in 1974 when India fired its first nuclear weapons test, resulting in Washington immediately cutting off nuclear cooperation with India, Kimball said.

The pact for “peaceful” nuclear cooperation signed by India at that time prohibited the use of US or Canadian equipment and technology for building a nuclear explosive device.

“But the Indians argued that the 1974 test was a peaceful one – which is ridiculous – and so there was a disagreement and ill will ever since then,” Kimball said.

“So the 123 agreement sets up New Delhi and Washington for a repeat (of such a scenario),” he said.

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August 15, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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