Washington-Delhi

The United States must ensure that its nuclear pact with India is not for military purposes

The nuclear pact with India reached by the American Senate last Wednesday puts an end to a twofold wait; this legal instrument now only misses a signature by President Bush. First, the agreement ends three years of hard negotiations. Second, and more significant, it ends over 30 years of glacial relations between the countries stemming from 1974, when Delhi - which was at the time the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement - detonated its first nuclear device, and Washington imposed sanctions against it. Today, this historical initiative sleeps "the dream of the just".

The agreement entails a transfer of oil and nuclear technology, supposedly non-military technology, in the knowledge however that the line between peaceful and military uses is only an act of faith. Delhi, which has not signed The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, needs this technology to produce electricity, so as to ensure that its 14 active reactors plus nine others under construction will generate 25% of its electrical technology by the year 2050. Currently, this figure does not exceed 3% owing to the lack of oil.

The case presents unavoidable similarities to that of Iran, which is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and also says it wants its nuclear industry to produce electricity. Iran however is the object of economic sanctions from the West, and supported by USA.

The reason for the difference in treatment between the two, is that India is allied to Washington in the war against international terrorism, although unlike Washington, India associates this war with the interests of Pakistan in Kashmir. On the other hand, Iran is the greatest enemy of Israel in the Near East and in this way is a rival to America power for hegemony in the zone. Other than this, guarantees by Iran as to its nuclear development have to be as believable as those of India. In any case, Delhi is already a power which possesses nuclear weapons, so turning its technology towards military purposes would be easier than it would for Teheran.

There can be just one answer to this problem: in-depth international inspection of the installations. India has indicated it is ready for these, but to the dissatisfaction of the West, President Ahmadineyad is not. As the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said in Delhi last Saturday, the agreement constitutes a “strategic association”, Washington owes the world as strict a set of controls in India as those that have to be applied to Teheran.