Global security and non-proliferation - EU and Indian approaches

6 April 2006

Axel Berkofsky, EPC Senior Policy Analyst, opened the meeting by pointing out that the US-India nuclear agreement still had to go through the US Congress before it could be implemented.

Professor Surjit Mansingh, Adjunct Professor at the School of International Service, The American University, Washington DC, said global security was a very large topic, including issues like energy security and the eradication of poverty.

She insisted that India’s record in preventing the proliferation of nuclear technology had been “absolutely impeccable, responsible and well-recognised”, and argued that the India-US civil nuclear energy agreement strengthened the nuclear non-proliferation regime, rather then weakening or undermining it.

The agreement has been debated and contested in both countries and is part of a much broader US approach recognising India as a full partner in global security issues. Professor Mansingh said India and the EU and US all had equally important roles to play because they are open, pluralistic, democratic societies where people of “different kinds can live together in relative harmony”.

India is strenuously engaged in eradicating poverty, which is an important source of insecurity. Energy security is also needed to speed up development. Professor Mansingh said the India-US agreement was about hastening development through energy security. Promoting nuclear energy is also part of India’s drive to avoid environmental damage, which makes it imperative to find sources of energy other than fossil fuels.

“The India-US nuclear agreement is part of multi-faceted energy dialogue which includes renewables and clean coal,” she said, adding that India’s record in not spreading nuclear technology and material to any other country was “absolutely impeccable” and that India had never been part of a nuclear black market.

She insisted that India had never damaged non-proliferation regime when outside the system and did not intend to damage it when inside. For the first time, it is submitting most of its reactors and nuclear programme to safeguards and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Opponents of the India-US agreement include “Gandhians” who ask whether India needed nuclear energy and weapons. These, said Professor Mansingh, are legitimate questions from the “Gandhian outlook”. However, India needs nuclear energy to boost development and eradicate poverty.

A second group of critics of the agreement in both the US and India are those opposed to the current governments in both countries; with a third group made up of “non-proliferation Ayatullahs or fundamentalists”.

Professor Mansingh pointed to Indian criticism that the non-proliferation agreement was discriminatory, set out unequal obligations for signatories and legitimised nuclear weapons in the hands of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

To those who complain that India has a poor record in nuclear safety, Ms Mansingh said the India-US nuclear deal allowed for the export of nuclear technology that would increase nuclear safety and allow India to produce nuclear energy from safe nuclear reactors. Any doubts about India’s intentions should be dispelled by the fact that the agreement includes provisions for “refreshing transparency”.

Annalisa Giannella, Personal Representative of High Representative Javier Solana for Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Council of the European Union, outlined the EU approach to security.

In December 2003, EU leaders agreed a first-ever security strategy which defined security as global problem that included not just the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction but also terrorism, poverty, organised crime and failed states. The EU view is that no single country can tackle these problems on its own. As a result, the Union supports effective multilateralism, including compliance with all multilateral treaties and conventions on non-proliferation.

The EU and India launched a strategic partnership in autumn 2005 and agreed to meet at senior level for a security dialogue. Mrs Giannella said the EU favoured the development of a bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan which could lead to “positive developments” on non-proliferation.

“There is a trend of convergence between EU and Indian approach but still some open questions,” she explained, adding that unlike India, all EU Member States support the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and want stronger export controls on nuclear equipment and technology.

While EU Member States recognise India’s refusal to accede to the non-proliferation treaty, “it is important that now India supports multilateral export control regimes and is ready to comply with the guidelines”, said Mrs Giannella, pointing out that India has a better record than Pakistan on horizontal non-proliferation and has acceded to other treaties on non-proliferation of chemical weapons and biological weapons.

Mrs Giannella added that the US-India deal required careful examination and thorough reflection. The Union agrees that India needs to develop energy sources which respect the environment, but it favours the international treaty system and wants it to be preserved.

She also argued that it was not useful to underline that the India-US deal was recognition of India as a nuclear weapon state. “It is much better to disconnect the two issues and not make a connection with nuclear weapons state status which would run against India’s interest,” she said. “We will never be ready to recognise a specific status for India as a nuclear weapon state.”

The EU wants to see what kind of safeguard agreement India will conclude with the IAEA. It is also important for the EU that civilian nuclear cooperation does not free up further capability for nuclear military programmes. A moratorium on fissile material production for military purposes would therefore be very useful.

Dr Apurba Kundu, Editor of Contemporary South Asia and Associate Dean at the School of Informatics, University of Bradford, UK, pointed out that India’s 22 nuclear reactors produced only 3% of its energy requirements and stressed that if energy security was important, India should be looking at coal and gas rather than “extremely dangerous” nuclear development which would free up fissile material for military uses.

He said the India-US agreement would only lead to an arms race in South Asia, with Pakistan turning to China for help. He also warned that US President George W. Bush might not be able to harness support for the deal despite recognition of India’s rising importance by many in the US.

In addition, some members of the nuclear suppliers’ group, like Sweden and Australia, may not be ready to supply nuclear technology to India. If India is serious about eradicating poverty to ensure global security, said Dr Kundu, it should invest more in health.