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US doublespeak on proliferation

US doublespeak on proliferation

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 1, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/205968/US-doublespeak-on-proliferation.html

On July 8, 1996 the World Court held that states possessing nuclear weapons have not just a need, but an obligation to commence negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. The court also held that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would be generally contrary to the principles of international law, though there was some doubt about the extreme contingency when "the very survival of a state was threatened". Despite this World Court opinion, the United States, Russia, France and the UK reserve the right to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons whenever their interests so demand. The US and Russia together possess around 19,000 nuclear warheads; France has around 350 warheads and the UK 160 warheads.

The 2005 US Doctrine of Joint Operations spells out several contingencies when the US could use nuclear weapons, including situations where it wants to "rapidly end a war on terms favourable to the US" or to ensure that American and international operations are successful. President Jacques Chirac announced in January 2006 that France reserves the right to use nuclear weapons against states supporting terrorism or seeking weapons of mass destruction. In 2003, British Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon warned Iraq that "in right conditions" the UK reserved the right to use nuclear weapons. China and India have ruled out the "first use" of nuclear weapons. Israel and Pakistan have indicated that they would use nuclear weapons if their very survival is threatened. President Barack Obama has indicated that the 2005 US Doctrine would be reviewed. But the US and its NATO allies will not rule out the use of nuclear weapons against states that do not possess such weapons, or give a "no first use" pledge against states possessing nuclear weapons.

Mr Obama has indicated that he does not expect to see the goal of a nuclear weapons-free world achieved in his lifetime. The so-called 'nuclear weapons states' may talk about arms limitations and undertake some token cuts in certain categories of strategic warheads. But they have no intention of eliminating nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Moreover, the American record on non-proliferation has been selective. In their book Deception: Pakistan the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy, Adrian levy and Catherine Scott-Clark have revealed how the CIA and successive US Administrations covered up information they had about Pakistan's relentless, China-assisted quest for nuclear weapons because of larger strategic considerations.

American 'Non-proliferation Ayatollahs' roar like lions when talking about proliferation by Iran and North Korea, but squeak like mice when it comes to proliferation by China. The Americans have long known that China has provided Pakistan with nuclear weapons designs, fissile material and enrichment equipment, but have deliberately turned a blind eye to China's activities. Over the past decade, China has provided Pakistan with plutonium reactors and reprocessing technology to enable Pakistan to make lighter warheads for fitment on Chinese supplied ballistic and cruise missiles. Successive US Administrations have ignored this. Moreover, despite recent revelations about AQ Khan, the Obama Administration continues to maintain that Pakistan's proliferation activities were carried out solely by a rogue "AQ Khan Network", thus absolving the Pakistani Army establishment which was the prime culprit, of its culpability. If President Ronald Reagan overlooked Pakistani proliferation in the 1980s to keep Gen Zia-ul-Haq pleased, Mr Obama evidently wants to keep Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in good humour. The Obama Administration remains tongue-tied on issues of the Pakistani Army's role in nuclear proliferation, and on the ISI's support for Taliban leaders and groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba who kill American soldiers and nationals in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

New Delhi is not the only capital concerned by the Obama Administration's efforts for 'universalisation' of the Non-Proliferation Treaty through demands that India, Israel and Pakistan should accede to the NPT. Responding to repeated statements on this issue by Obama Administration luminaries, Israel's normally soft-spoken Defence Minister Ehud Barak retorted on September 7: "Until the Muslim world from Marrakesh to Bangladesh behaves like Western Europe, there can be no debate on nuclear non-proliferation." Rarely, if ever, has Israel reacted in such terms to sermons on its security imperatives from an American President.

India has rejected the Obama-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution of September 24, calling on it to accede to the NPT. India should make it clear internationally that an important reason that the US is now focussing heavily on the NPT is that it is desperately keen to ensure that the NPT Review Conference scheduled for 2010 does not end in a fiasco like the review of 2005. But, the reasons why the non-nuclear weapons states stood firm in the 2005 review still remain valid, as the nuclear weapons states pay only lip service to nuclear disarmament, still insist on their right to use nuclear weapons against those who do not posses such weapons, and selectively deny technology for the development of nuclear energy. Moreover, while India would be prepared to join a multilaterally negotiated and non-discriminatory treaty on a fissile material cut-off, we cannot accede to the CTBT, which was accompanied by secret understandings and exchanges between five nuclear weapons states.

India-US relations saw a remarkable turnaround in the last two years of the Clinton Administration and throughout the eight years of the Bush Administration. The 2002 Bush National Security Doctrine resulted in the US regarding India as a partner in areas ranging from nuclear non-proliferation to climate change and global economic issues. The policies the Obama Administration has pursued since it assumed office on such issues give the impression that it regards India as a target, rather than as a partner. Including provisions in the UN Security Council Resolution of September 24 which are at variance with the letter and spirit of the 123 Agreement and the subsequent NSG waiver only accentuates misgivings and suspicions in India. Similarly, the threats held out about trade sanctions against countries that do not toe the US line on climate change, by Democratic Party Senator John Kerry, smack of crude intimidation. Given the Obama Administration's approach to relations with China, can one see any prospect of the type of swift and effective India-US cooperation that followed the Indian Ocean tsunami? These misgivings and suspicions will have to be addressed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits Washington, DC.

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