The House International Relations Committee will meet tomorrow to markup a bill that will allow the president to exempt India from the Requirements of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (H.R.4974). This comes on the heels of last year’s presidential decision to help India further develop its civilian nuclear technology, despite the country’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under current U.S. law, a country must inter alia be an NPT signatory in order for the United States to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with it.
The Bush administration deserves credit for strengthening bilateral cooperation with India on issues ranging from energy to development. Yet its handling of nuclear cooperation with India raises cause for concern.
Allowing an exception for India risks undermining the NPT. India has nuclear weapons, and it tested a device in 1998. It is one of three countries never to have signed the NPT, along with Israel and Pakistan. The NPT serves as the bedrock of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime; without it, President Kennedy’s prediction of more than two dozen nuclear powers may well have come to pass.
House Resolution 4974 will allow the president to exempt India from various requirements that condition U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation with other countries. Although the bill includes a safeguard that cancels any special exemptions if India detonates a nuclear explosive device after its enactment, this is a risk that Congress should be wary of taking.
In 1974, India ignored its agreements with the United States and used a peaceful nuclear energy program to build a nuclear bomb. As the House International Relations Committee considers America’s nuclear cooperation with India tomorrow, we urge them to seriously consider the risks of voiding precedents for nuclear development.
For more information on the Center's stance on India’s nuclear development, see: