Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Blog-On-Blog: What Jeremy Kahn Misses On the US-India Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on June 29, 2010

Jeremy Kahn, a former managing editor for TNR, offers a snappy piece (cautiously) defending the U.S. India nuclear.  The article boiled down:  don’t blame India for the regime falling apart; rather, blame the regime itself (and the Bush administration).

But his logic-chain derails a few times.

First, he concedes the Bush administration “gutted” the NPT regime.

While a critic of the deal myself, this claim strikes me as glaringly swallow—for either gleeful supporters or staunch defenders of the NPT to parrot.  India (and Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) have to be brought into the nuclear system.  And none of these countries will give up their weapons, or get a reform to the NPT that would gain them entry.

Ad hoc deals are the only solution.

But was an NSG exception the best way to go?  Clearly not:  logically, it demanded response a response from US rivals—a la the China-Pakistan nuclear deal.

But the biggest weakness remains its failure to promote non-proliferation within the terms of the US-India deal.  The US could–and should–have negotiated more stringent nuclear disclosure and inspection requirements.  By blatantly tying the N-deal to a sloppily thought out strategic aim (countering Chinese influence), the US caused more problems—and alienated key allies.

And India—at least in the near term—lost a chance to become a true leader on nonproliferation and disarmament.

The US-India nuclear deal did not, and has not, made the NPT irrelevant.  And the US-India nuclear deal hasn’t made it easier for Iran to get the bomb.

Iran, like most countries, will get the bomb it if decides to do so.  What the nuclear deal did was to lower the diplomatic pain it would feel.

But the real problem remains the P-5 members treating proliferation concerns secondary to other strategic interests.  Hence the real flaw with the NPT.

Kahn is right to defend India from being lumped in with other proliferators.  But, in doing so, he misses out on the costs of such an approach when it comes to nonproliferation.

In so doing, Kahn fails to imagine a world where India’s neighbors have nukes on hair-trigger alert.  Then how has either India or global non-proliferation been strengthened?

So who is to blame?  Nonproliferation remains a collective nuclear responsibility.

And, even with its flaws, the NPT has worked to prevent a nuclear attack for over 50 years.

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