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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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India should not be trusted with nuclear technology

It seems that the United States is turning soft toward India. After 30 years of tumultuous relations between the two countries, the ever-foreign-policy-minded President George W. Bush has suddenly decided to forgive India’s previous transgressions by proposing an agreement that would allow the country to enhance its civil nuclear program. However, considering India’s past history, it is in the best interest of Congress to impede Bush’s risky decision to trust India with such a powerful technology.
The new plan, which was signed by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March, would allow India to buy foreign-made nuclear reactors and grant it de facto recognition as a nuclear power by the United States. The policy is dangerous because it would give India access to nuclear materials it was previously denied. Moreover, the policy will allow India to substantially increase its ability to produce nuclear weapons. India will also be given access to U.S. civil technology and can designate eight of its 22 nuclear facilities as off-limits to international nuclear inspectors.
One only needs to inspect India’s nuclear history to understand why strengthening ties with the country is such a hazardous idea. In the 1970s, India enjoyed a warm relationship with the Soviet Union, which supplied the country with heavy water, a nuclear material. India also refused to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, which obligates the five nuclear weapon states (United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) not to transfer nuclear weapons or their technology to any non-nuclear weapon state, such as India. This is why it has been denied access to American and international nuclear cooperation projects in the past.
Proponents of the plan, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, claim that India’s economy and energy needs will get a boost from the increased access to nuclear power. This alternate power would help alleviate the country’s numerous blackouts resulting from insufficient electricity, as well as reduce carbon dioxide emissions. She also stressed that the deal would call for India to open up its 14 other nuclear facilities to international inspectors, putting it under safeguards. Also, having India as a nuclear power in Asia will serve to counter the increasingly problematic China.
While it is true that nuclear power is less environmentally damaging than the coal that provides half of India’s power, it is not the only answer to the problem. Over the past decade, one-third of the country’s power supplies came from natural gas and hydro-electricity, which are also better for the environment. Expanding these existing systems instead of relying on nuclear power will be a safer solution.
The fact that 14 nuclear facilities will be open to international inspectors also has no merit, especially considering how countries such as Iraq and India have dealt with the issue in the past. What is there to stop India from also barring inspectors in the future? In addition, countries such as China and Pakistan may feel they have to react to India’s increasing power, causing an arms race in South Asia.
The United States should focus on decreasing, not increasing, the amount of nuclear weapons in the world if it intends to keep them out of the hands of the terrorists it so despises. The hypocritical attitude the United States exhibits by barring Middle Eastern countries from handling weapons, while selectively allowing others access to such weapons further augments the problem because it creates hostile feelings toward the United States. By examining India’s history and the weak reasons given in support of the plan, it is clear that giving India access to international nuclear technology will only ensue in chaos.

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