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US should ask India to cut-off fissile prod: Expert

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 4: A Non-proliferation expert, in an editorial published in the April 2006 issue of 'Arms Control Today', has urged lawmakers not to approve the US-India nuke deal unless India stops production of fissile material for weapons purposes.

Daryl G Kimball of the Arms Control Association (ACA) said,''If they do not, the proposal for nuclear cooperation with India would constitute a dangerous sellout of core Non-proliferation goals and could become the catalyst for an Asian nuclear arms race.'' US diplomats failed to secure any new commitments from India to restrain its nuclear weapons programme as called for in a 1998 UN Security Council Resolution, Mr Kimball said in the monthly journal of the ACA.

''Instead, India only restated its support for efforts to negotiate a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). But, this pledge means little given that FMCT talks have been delayed for years due to competing negotiating priorities and US opposition to the negotiation of a verification mechanism,'' Mr Kimball remarked.

A fissile raw material production cutoff would stop the production that all five of the original nuclear-weapon states are understood to observe and also cap the growth of the arsenals of India, Pakistan and Israel, he said.

Mr Kimball was of the opinion that the controversial proposal for full civil nuclear assistance to India would inadvertently put the fissile material cutoff back in the spot light.

''To jump-start progress on an FMCT and help ensure that civil nuclear trade with India will not aid its weapons programme, Congress and the international community must press for concrete action on the fissile production cutoff,'' he said.

''To leverage action on an FMCT and begin to address the flawed proposal for nuclear assistance to India, Congress and Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) member states should refuse to relax nuclear trade rules with India until it halts production of fissile material for weapons purposes,'' Mr Kimball said adding that ''At the same time, they should urge others to halt fissile material production pending the conclusion of a verifiable FMCT.''

US President George W Bush's ''controversial proposal'' to exempt India from longstanding US and international nuclear trade standards has brought to center-stage, the lack of progress on halting the production of fissile materials for weapons by India, Pakistan and other states, he said.

He pointed out that the deal would allow India to exclude from safeguards all of its military production facilities, plus as many as eight additional power reactors and existing spent nuclear fuel.

India's fast breeder reactors, which are particularly well suited for weapons-grade plutonium production, would be kept off-limits.

''As a result, a growing number of Congressional members and NSG states believe the administration gave up too much and got few Non-proliferation benefits. They are concerned that the proposal would implicitly endorse, if not indirectly assist the growth of India's nuclear arsenal,'' he said.

''If India got foreign nuclear reactor fuel supplies it could free up India's limited uranium reserves for the sole purpose of adding to its arsenal of 50-100 nuclear bombs. Not only would the US proposal undermine the Non-proliferation system, but it could also lead Pakistan to increase its fissile production and tempt China to resume fissile production for weapons,'' Mr Kimball added.


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