Nuclear Weapons, Criminal States, and the US-India Deal
Nuclear-armed states are criminal states. They have a legal
obligation, confirmed by the World Court, to live up to Article 6 of
the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which calls on them to carry out
good-faith negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely. None
of the nuclear states has lived up to it.
The United States is a leading violator, especially the Bush
administration, which even has stated that it isn't subject to
On July 27, Washington entered into an agreement with India that guts
the central part of the NPT, though there remains substantial
opposition in both countries. India, like Israel and Pakistan (but
unlike Iran), is not an NPT signatory, and has developed nuclear
weapons outside the treaty. With this new agreement, the Bush
administration effectively endorses and facilitates this outlaw
behaviour. The agreement violates US law, and bypasses the Nuclear
Suppliers Group, the 45 nations that have established strict rules to
lessen the danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association,
observes that the agreement doesn't bar further Indian nuclear
testing and, "incredibly, ... commits Washington to help New Delhi
secure fuel supplies from other countries even if India resumes
testing." It also permits India to "free up its limited domestic
supplies for bomb production." All these steps are in direct
violation of international nonproliferation agreements.
The Indo-US agreement is likely to prompt others to break the rules
as well. Pakistan is reported to be building a plutonium production
reactor for nuclear weapons, apparently beginning a more advanced
phase of weapons design. Israel, the regional nuclear superpower, has
been lobbying Congress for privileges similar to India's, and has
approached the Nuclear Suppliers Group with requests for exemption
from its rules. Now France, Russia and Australia have moved to pursue
nuclear deals with India, as China has with Pakistan - hardly a
surprise, once the global superpower has opened the door.
The Indo-US deal mixes military and commercial motives. Nuclear
weapons specialist Gary Milhollin noted Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice's testimony to Congress that the agreement was
"crafted with the private sector firmly in mind," particularly
aircraft and reactors and, Milhollin stresses, military aircraft. By
undermining the barriers against nuclear war, he adds, the agreement
not only increases regional tensions but also "may hasten the day
when a nuclear explosion destroys an American city." Washington's
message is that "export controls are less important to the United
States than money" - that is, profits for US corporations - whatever
the potential threat. Kimball points out that the United States is
granting India "terms of nuclear trade more favourable than those for
states that have assumed all the obligations and responsibilities" of
the NPT. In most of the world, few can fail to see the cynicism.
Washington rewards allies and clients that ignore the NPT rules
entirely, while threatening war against Iran, which is not known to
have violated the NPT, despite extreme provocation: The United States
has occupied two of Iran's neighbours and openly sought to overthrow
the Iranian regime since it broke free of US control in 1979.
Over the past few years, India and Pakistan have made strides towards
easing the tensions between the two countries. People-to-people
contacts have increased and the governments are in discussion over
the many outstanding issues that divide the two states. Those
promising developments may well be reversed by the Indo-US nuclear
deal. One of the means to build confidence throughout the region was
the creation of a natural gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan
into India. The "peace pipeline" would have tied the region together
and opened the possibilities for further peaceful integration.
The pipeline, and the hope it offers, might become a casualty of the
Indo-US agreement, which Washington sees as a measure to isolate its
Iranian enemy by offering India nuclear power in exchange for Iranian
gas - though in fact India would gain only a fraction of what Iran
The Indo-US deal continues the pattern of Washington's taking every
measure to isolate Iran. In 2006, the US Congress passed the Hyde
Act, which specifically demanded that the US government "secure
India's full and active participation in United States efforts to
dissuade, isolate, and if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for
its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction."
It is noteworthy that the great majority of Americans - and Iranians
- favour converting the entire region to a nuclear-weapons free zone,
including Iran and Israel. One may also recall that UN Security
Council Resolution 687 of April 3, 1991, to which Washington
regularly appealed when seeking justification for its invasion of
Iraq, calls for "establishing in the Middle East a zone free from
weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery."
Clearly, ways to mitigate current crises aren't lacking.
This Indo-US agreement richly deserves to be derailed. The threat of
nuclear war is extremely serious, and growing, and part of the reason
is that the nuclear states - led by the United States - simply refuse
to live up to their obligations or are significantly violating them,
this latest effort being another step toward disaster.
The US Congress gets a chance to weigh in on this deal after the
International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group
vet it. Perhaps Congress, reflecting a citizenry fed up with nuclear
gamesmanship, can reject the agreement. A better way to go forward is
to pursue the need for global nuclear disarmament, recognising that
the very survival of the species is at stake.
Noam Chomsky's most recent book is Interventions, a collection of his
commentary pieces. Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and
philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
This article appeared in the Khaleej Times on October 8, and at Japan
Focus on October 8, 2007.