NPT Wreckage

That ongoing effort is being “broadcast on CSPAN2.”:

Will someone please point out that India’s population size, type of government, and economic growth don’t mean that it gets to have nuclear weapons?

Anyway, ACA sponsored a related event on Tuesday. “Check out the transcript”: for more details.

I would point out that Zia Mian discussed “this report”: which, I think, pretty much demolishes “this one”: by Ashley Tellis.

Bottom line: India doesn’t have enough uranium for both its nuclear weapons and nuclear power programs. That is why the agreement aids India’s nuclear program.

If you don’t believe me, check out this line from a “previous Tellis report”:

The energy dialogue represents the best means of reaching a U.S. – Indian modus vivendi on civilian nuclear power. Given its huge energy requirements, the growing pressures to avoid burning dirty coal in order to protect the environment, and the need to reduce carbon emissions that exacerbate global warming, New Delhi has little alternative but to rely increasingly on nuclear power. Unfortunately for India, two major challenges threaten this objective.

One of which is “India has the misfortune to have been poorly endowed with natural uranium.”

Tellis adds:

While the difficulties of mastering the thorium- based fuel cycle will preoccupy India for many years to come, New Delhi is confronted by more pressing threats. The critical problem facing India right now is the severe shortage of natural uranium, which, if unresolved, could bring the operation of many stage 1 PHWRs to a gradual halt. Not only would this worsen India’s electricity production problems—with all the consequent implications for economic growth—but it would also decisively undermine the three-stage program on which the Department of Atomic Energy has staked the nation’s energy independence for the secular future.

Interestingly, check out his description of a series of considerably less-ambitious steps (relative to the nuclear deal) that would aid India’s nuclear program:

If the administration were to settle for even such conservative reforms as these, it would not only send an important signal to India about larger American intentions but would materially contribute to preserving the future balance of power in Asia—a prospect that motivated former U.S. ambassador to India Robert D. Blackwill to ask recently, “Why should the U.S. want to check India’s missile capability in ways that could lead to China’s permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India?”23 Even if the United States cannot actively aid India in developing its strategic capabilities, it ought to *pursue policies having exactly that effect.* Currently, the easiest way for the administration to do this is simply to leave New Delhi—and its international partners—alone.

[Emphasis mine.]



“Here’s an article”: about the final vote.

25 thoughts on “NPT Wreckage

  1. Rajat Talwar


    Will someone remind the NPT hardliners that a horsemanure treaty that decided that countries get to keep nuclear weapons based on an arbitrary cutoff date doesn’t hold water anymore? Good riddance to a useless piece of paper that only served to protect big power hypocrisy.

    India’s size, population, economic growth etc means that it is a big power and gets to partake in the same victor’s spoils that the NPT afforded Britain, France etc.

  2. Manne

    Paul, I know it hurts. Especially when one is forced to ignore that India’s neighbourhood and the fact that it did not steal anything from anyone mean her options cannot be taken away from her. Congratulations. Well done! I expected no less.

  3. Alok Niranjan

    reality sucks, don’t it? all you non-prol dudes can now suck it up and ask tough questions … rather than wank at India ask why you western states have nukes? … LOL.

  4. Kartik

    Nuclear power in India contributes a small fraction of total power generated in India. Even with all the uranium in the world you are not going to see a huge number of nuclear reactors in India in the near future (say next 20 years). We have lots of coal and can afford to burn all that if this deal didn’t pass.

    India is the only one that gets to decide whether or not it needs nuclear weapons. We have already done so. We need them and will keep them for as long as they are needed.

  5. Akash

    Its fun to watch you guys squirm about India getting the deal. And as regards size and nukes, live in our part of the world, ditch your hypocrisy at the door (the kind that wink, nodded, nudged at Chinese proliferation antics all these years), and then lets see.

    85-12 baby! :-p

  6. Jeffrey Lewis

    I dunno Paul, the uranium requirements for a nuclear weapons program are so small.

    I think even India’s paltry reserves could support CIRUS and Dhruva.

    Although I admit, I am working from memory and haven’t done the calculation.

    But its late, and I have a bar in Beijing calling my name.

    Maybe over the weekend.

  7. Akash

    BTW, why are comments disabled about the prior post? I mean after all, if you can make claims that bad, bad India was doing the dirty with the Khan network and the like and tut tut about it, surely others should be able to respond to that gem of a post?


  8. Paul


    Maybe, but the point is that India can’t have the nuclear power program that it claims to want without facing some constrains in producing fissile materials. Even Tellis’ more recent report concedes that.

  9. Paul

    In response to all of these “hypocrisy” claims, I would merely say that (based on my ACW experience) most, if not all, of them seem to come from people who are more than happy with the current NPT arrangement, as long as India gets to be one of the nuclear-weapons “haves.” It’s not a prinicpled argument.

  10. CKR

    Hey Paul, if this is a cross-post, where is your other blog? I don’t recall seeing a link here.

    It looks like there are other steps on the way before the deal is done, but from what I hear, the NSG will be willing to go along with this vote.

  11. Robot Economist

    I made a similar case when arguing with Brad Roberts at IDA last year.

    India’s uranium reserves are very limited. If New Dehli is kept out of the NPT and NSG until their reserves are depleted (no pun intended), our bargaining position would be much stronger.

    Why give India an easy out of the NPT’s hard choices if we already have them in the proverbial thumbscrews on fuel supply? Once they need go abroad for uranium ore, the international community can force them to choose between expanding their arsenal or powering their country.

  12. Michael Roston

    Paul –
    Ultimately, there’s a case being made that the benefits to US policy of normalizing nuclear relations with India, and the positive spin-offs for the bilateral relationship broadly, outweigh the detriment to the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

    It doesn’t seem like anyone has made the case that we don’t really benefit much from the US-India relationship. I haven’t thought about it much, but it seems like as long as that debate isn’t on the table, chalk one up for New Delhi and its muscular geopolitical pursuits.

  13. AHM

    For those who would like to review the wisdom or folly of their representatives (depending on your perspective), see Senate Roll Call Vote 270 of the 109th Congress, 2nd Session

    While this is certainly good for India (assuming that this doesn’t lead to China and Pakistan enlarging their arsenals), I challenge the ardent proponents to explain how promoting enlarging India’s (or anyone’s) nuclear arsenal is any good for the rest of the world.

  14. Matthew Bunn

    I really don’t think the argument that this deal will help India build a lot more nuclear weapons holds water. One of the authors of the very report ACA is relying on, Doug Rajaraman, came a few weeks ago and gave a very good talk pointing out that (a) the fuel requirements for plutonium production are modest; (b) those reactors (CIRUS and Dhruva) will get first claim to available uranium in any case, so that if anything suffers from a lack of uranium, it will likely be the civil program, not the weapon program; (c) the breeder can use depleted uranium and reprocessed uranium, so that additional uranium will not have to be mined for that (and it will be able to produce a good deal of weapons plutonium if desired); so (d) the only scenario in which more weapons plutonium gets produced as a result of greater uranium availability is if India decides it needs to produce FAR more plutonium per year than it ever has before, and for that purpose decides to convert some of the power reactors that will remain unsafeguarded to plutonium production, and decides to run them at low burnups to produce high-grade weapons plutonium (so that they would need more uranium per year). I think the odds of that happening are very, very slim.

    I think the nonproliferation downsides of this deal lie elsewhere—in essence, in sending a message to others that may be considering nuclear weapons (such as Iran) that, after some period of sanctions and resistance, the West may possibly acquiesce (whether or not that would happen, my Iranian colleagues tell me that argument is being raised in Tehran); and sending a broader message about the limited benefits of membership in the regime, if states outside of the regime can get similar benefits.

    I think describing the deal as “NPT Wreckage” is going WAY too far. After all, the United States had civilian nuclear cooperation with India, which was outside the NPT, when the NPT was negotiated. There is no prohibition in the NPT on nuclear cooperation with states outside the treaty.

  15. abcd

    I find it slightly disturbing that some on these forums would see the solution to an unstable and tension-ridden situation (India vs. Pakistan, to cite one example) be one that only intensifies the game.

    I wonder if they will cry “hypocrisy” when Pakistan and China collude to protect Pakistan’s “security”?

  16. Paul


    Thanks for the comment. Sorry I don’t have time for a longer response, but here are a few points.

    —Agreed that the biggest problem with the deal is the bad signal it sends.

    —It seems that the study I cited, the Tellis pieces, and India’s long-running thorium project all indicate that there is a tradeoff between India’s military and civilian nuclear programs in a world where New Delhi decides to pursue its energy program on a large scale. I’m not sure that’s inconsistent with your comment – India could probably keep producing plutonium for a while if it neglected the civilian program. I’d be interested to see the presentation that you referred to.

    —I think it’s reasonable to argue that, due to the point above, that the deal could very well violate Article I of the NPT. As for the title, I was engaging in a bit of hyperbole, but I think the deal is pretty damaging to the NPT precisely because it rewards India for not signing the NPT.

  17. efgh


    You are making a leap of imagination. The US-India deal is about diversifying India’s energy sources.

    Cleaning up the terrosist cesspools in Pakistan is a separate long term task that will involve most NATO countries as a result of Afghanistan.

  18. abcd


    You are correct in pointing out to me that the US-India deal is about “diversifying India’s energy resources.” The point is that the deal could potentially free up India’s resources used to produce nuclear weapons. Surely one would want to factor this in to their assesment as to whether or not the deal is worth it.

    And precisely what does “Cleaning up the terrosist cesspools in Pakistan is a separate long term task that will involve most NATO countries as a result of Afghanistan.” mean? Pakistan’s security is viewed in the context of both the domestic (an Islamist coup) and the existential (India’s nuclear arsenal). Anything that increases the threat of the second is likely to figure prominently in the reconfiguration of Pakistan’s security posture; and if the past is any guide, it is likely to do so while having its own domestic reverberations.

    Finally, I would hope that one could think of better ways to “clean up terrorist cesspools in Pakistan” without the assistance of NATO. Pakistan won’t even allow U.S. troops on its soil so I wouldn’t be holding my breath on the boys from Brussels touching down anytime soon.

  19. Grumpy Physicist

    Well, it would be rather neat if India could get the thorium fuel cycle working. But I have this feeling (based on the cross-sections) that it’s impractical. Still, it may be worth a try, and I’m sure they’re capable of giving it a good solid try.

    But techno-geekism aside, I find it hard to think of India as a “threat”, either of agression or proliferating to other countries. The problem with turning a blind eye to India’s nuclear program is one of inconsistency (and, arguably, hypocrisy) when one has to deal with other countries which one really, really does not want to have the bomb.

  20. Akash

    Abcd wrote:I wonder if they will cry “hypocrisy” when Pakistan and China collude to protect Pakistan’s “security”?——————-

    And what makes you think China and Pak are not colluding as is, despite the fervent hope of many NPA advocates (alas, if wishes were reality!) that China is abiding, lock, stock and barrel by its NPT obligations?
    India finally went NWS in 1998, when it became clear to the Indian strategic community that Pak had operationalized its Ns and tested a missile which was able to hit the hitherto protected Indian south. Prior to that, way back from the 80’s, Indian newspapers were hollering about the Khan proliferation network and its ties to Beijing and Pyongyang. All too predictably, they were written off as Indian scaremongering with condescending quips about- “oh those Indians and their loathing for the poor Pakistanis” and the like. Of course, come issues of Khans collusion with folks to target the west after 9/11, and the tune changed rather predictably. Now it was evil Khan and the threat to peace (sic.). Face it, as far as the treatment of India has been concerned, there has been a fair amount of hypocrisy (yes, the H word), when it comes to NPA advocates. I am not being polemical- merely pointing out the facts. If India were proliferating to NK or Iran or Libya, then I would seriously consider statements on India being a proliferation hazard. But the facts are that it hasnt, nor has it been pursuing terror as an instrument of state policy (a la’ the Pak. ISI in India and Afghanistan), with its nuclear “muscle” as some sort of negotiating point, each time its antics become too odious to be ignored.
    Now Messrs. Albright and co can come up with all the specious excuses they want to paint India as the big bad wolf of proliferation (including that rather ridiculous bit on publically available tender documents earlier being a scoop. Daniel Craig, move over!), but the reality is that the NPA group appears to have little to no issues in dealing with a totalitarian state that has constantly mocked the NPT, in terms of its actions via arming Pak. in order to contain its Asian rival, and then watched as that latter country became the centerpiece of a global walmart for N tech.. All this continued till the events of 9/11 drew sharp attention to security issues facing the west, but sorry- India has been facing all that for donkeys years (please google for the Mumbai blasts) and has to take certain steps to safeguard its security. Its pretty straight forward. India wanted a gas deal with Iran for energy security- the US had New Delhi vote against Iran at the UN for this N deal and scupper it. Now the N deal constitutes a “proliferation hazard”. Ok, so what is India supposed to do now? Oh wait, we’ll strike deals with Iran again and give them billions for oil and gas (because we must) and of course, that means more Kornets and Metis-M ATGMs for use by Hezbollah. Isnt the world such a nice place? OTOH, please do continue asking a secular democracy to not pursue assured energy supply for its gorwing economy and then wonder, dang- what if all those poor people whose aspirations the GOI has not been able to meet, what if they become a source of regional inStability? Cant get any worse than the current set-up, right with another 300 Million anti-western extremists?
    Please do think- you cant have your cake and eat it too. With or without the US, India is on its way to power status- with this deal, at least a sort of alliance shall emerge which will ensure that the US has some stake in India’s path and the choices it makes and that there is indeed a reasonably democratic state amongst a plethora of failed ones in the region.

  21. bongdongs

    Whatever be the pro-and-con’s of this deal, the volume and the virulence of false propoganda unleashed by the non-proliferation lobby against India (eg. David Albright) was in itself an eyeopener to many Indian’s like myself.

    The precceding article on this blog is a fine example of such “research”.


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