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China-Pakistan Deal Pushes Forward Without the NSG: Is This Something to Worry About?

Posted by K.E. White on June 27, 2011

No, but others disagree.

A fellow law student, Matthew F. Ferraro, at Flashpoint (A Blog of The Diplomat Magazine) discusses two recent–and in his view troubling–nuclear moves by China.  Ferraro frets over (1) China’s pending nuclear deal with Pakistan and (2) Chinese refusal to allow India to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.  While he doesn’t offer a solution to the perceived second problem, he suggests an intriguing idea for the first:  have the NSG push for a de facto waiver by lobbying China to accept a NSG declaration welcoming the deal and emphasizing that all nuclear facilities under it will be under IAEA restrictions.

While thoughtful and original piece, Ferraro’s ‘solution’ is impractical, and–if pursued–would risk dealing a fatal blow ever getting Pakistan in the nuclear fold and needlessly alienate China.

(And did I mention that pursuing this de facto waiver would futher strain America’s relationship with Pakistan?)

There are a five points to bring-up that in my view represent critical omissions/miscues on the article:

(1)  The US-India nuclear deal was a bum deal, but we’re sticking to it.  The United States actively lobbied the NSG to grant a ‘waiver’, in return for a new, strategic relationship with India.  And for what (primary) reason?  To corner China.  What did we actually get?  (1) International criticism; (2) India getting even more nuclear deals with Russia and France; (3) and India not really pinning China down.  And how do you think the United States (tacitly) got China’s approval on this waiver?  Probably a guarantee not to hold up (oh wait it can’t) complain about a nuclear deal with Pakistan.

(2)  China’s deal with Pakistan is not illegal.  Ferraro states refers to this deal as “China’s illicit sale”, but it’s not illicit.  The NSG terms are voluntary.  This is a crucial point that undermines the basis of the entire article:  China isn’t breaking its international commitments.  Yes, the NSG  could kick out China, which would then (pretty much) destroy the very reason for the NSG to exist.  But there’s an important difference between a ‘breach’ of a voluntary agreement, and violating international law.  This may seem silly semantics, but the NSG is voluntary exactly so it’s members can show the flexibility necessary to deal with nuclear commerce issues.  In fact, with an issue as sensitive as nuclear commerce, this flexibility is needed.

(3)  Is the United States really all  that upset?  Sorry to call me a skeptic, but the U.S. knew this day was coming.  Giving India a nuclear pass meant that India would get one as well.  Furthermore, at a time when U.S.-Pakistan are both vital and troubled, I think the U.S. may actually be thankful for this deal in the long-term.  Pakistan already has nukes; the United States can’t give any nuclear carrots (for domestic and external reasons); at least China can give tools, IAEA assurances, and perhaps a road to bringing Pakistan into the nuclear fold.

The critical point:  The United States can’t bring Pakistan into the nuclear fold alone; it will need China, and to get that support, the United States will have to deal with China keep Pakistan a strategic partner.

(4)  Ferraro’s solution sounds great, but spells trouble.  This isn’t the way to go.  If India was kicking and screaming about NSG approval of the U.S.-India deal, the NSG injecting itself into a bilateral agreement without China’s approval is fool-hearty at best, stupid at worst.  First, China won’t vote for it–hence, it won’t pass.  Result:  the NSG looks completely helpless, and antagonizes China.  Critical point:  China’s timing of this deal has as much to do with helping itself, as helping the other NSG members swallow the deal.  Second, it pushes Pakistan even further away from coming into the nuclear fold–like eventually signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The NSG focusing even more attention on this matter will (1) likely fail and (2)  alienate China and Pakistan.  At at time when having India and Pakistan sign the NPT (less likely) or Conventional Test Ban Treaty (more likely medium-term) is far more important than bellyaching Pakistan nuclear deal, the NSG pursuing a de facto waiver seems a dangerous waste of time.

(5)  Thank God China’s blocking India’s NSG bid!  Ferraro leaves this point in left field, mentioning it but not explaining why it’s bad.  I assume Ferraro believes bringing India into the NSG is a nonproliferation ‘win’.  But that seems a rather dubious proposition.  Opening the doors to India inevitably opens question about permitting Pakistan and Israel into a club.  Great, let’s dominant all NSG discussion over member instead of getting the current members on the same page on nuclear policy.   (If you couldn’t guess, I believe this is a bad idea.).

Conclusion:  The Deal Is Happening, and It’s a Good Thing–But What Comes Next?

Ferraro basically sees the ‘bad’ in the China-Pakistan deal, without looking to the hard realities of today’s nuclear diplomacy.  Now admittedly, perhaps I’m to quick to give China a pass-a position Ashley J. Tellis would no doubt agree with me on.  (Note:  Tellis gives more background on the China-Pakistan nuke deal’s differences from the U.S.-India deal and how China justifies the deal).

But, overall, I still believe the United States should quietly be pleased with China’s moves.  The real question wasn’t if this move was going to happen, but (1) how it was executed and (2) how it would be used in the future to mold Pakistan’s nuclear practices.  China’s actions are actually containing the fall-out from America’s past breach of nuclear norms.  Is China getting a benefit?  Sure.  But when it comes to the nonproliferation agenda, all goodies that America gets, China and Russia will get.  At least China using its nuclear card prudently, quietly, and in way that helps maintain international stability, helps American diplomacy, and–most importantly to those concerned with nuclear proliferation–generates to a new lever to pressure Pakistan on nonproliferation issues.

But the real question of how the U.S., China, and Russia can use this lever to push a nonproliferation agenda, within their already crowded priority agendas, is too early to answer.

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Posted in Nuclear Deal | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Economist Slams the China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on June 30, 2010

While dated, the Economist’s editorial on the China-Pakistan nuclear deal remains a must-read.

But I’ll ring one optimistic tone:  with the US and China now both active nuclear patrons to non-NPT parties–not to mention others–there may be more support among the nuclear powers to tighten safeguards in the future.

Why?  They’ll all want cover in the event of a nuclear crisis.  This has particular resonance in Pakistan.

Perhaps the US offering their own deal is just the cross-cutting engagement that can secure Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure?

To key parts from The Economist’s editorial:

America argued that India had a spotless non-proliferation record (it doesn’t) and that bringing it into the non-proliferation “mainstream” could only bolster global anti-proliferation efforts (it didn’t). The deal incensed not just China and Pakistan but many others, inside and outside the NSG. An immediate casualty was the effort to get all members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), who have already promised not to seek the bomb, to sign up to an additional protocol on toughened safeguards. Many have, but on hearing of the America-India deal Brazil’s president is reputed to have flatly ruled that out. And where Brazil has put its foot down, others have also hesitated.

What particularly riles outsiders is that America did not get anything much out of India in return. It did not win backing for new anti-proliferation obligations, such as a legally binding test ban or for an end to the further production of fissile uranium or plutonium for bombs. India has since designated some of its reactors as civilian, and open to inspection, but others still churn out spent fuel richly laden with weapons-usable plutonium. India can potentially make even more of the stuff. Now that it can import uranium fuel for its civilian reactors, it can devote more of its scarce domestic supplies to bomb-making.

If Pakistan really is worried about India’s growing nuclear arsenal, diplomacy might work better than an arms race. George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment, a think tank, says Pakistan should lift its veto on a ban on the production of fissile materials for bombs. That would put India (which claims to support a ban) on the spot. Like enriched uranium, hypocrisy can be costlier than it seems.

Posted in Nuclear Deal | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on June 6, 2010

Fall-out from the U.S.-India nuclear deal?  Foreign Policy offers this article by Mark Hibbs.

Posted in China, Nuclear Deal, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

N-Deal for Pakistan? C. Christine Fair’s Editorial in Foreign Policy Magazine

Posted by K.E. White on March 23, 2010

Update 3/24/10:  Fair’s Foreign Policy editorial post-dates a similar editorial she wrote for the Wall Street Journal last month (subscription only).

C. Christine Fair suggests the United States take preliminary steps towards a nuclear deal with Pakistan.

The reward for such a policy?  Breaking the Pakistani regime’s ties to extremist organizations.

Could such a plan work?  Perhaps.  But there are many pitfalls.  Would opening Pakistan to the nuclear market-place really strengthen America’s bargaining power?  Or would we get short-term gain, and then watch in later years as Pakistan deals with other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group?  And what cost would America pay in its relationship with India or its efforts to strengthen non-proliferation norms if it even hinted at a U.S.-Pakistan nuclear deal?

In any case, any Obamaland discussion of this proposal seems unlikely for now.  With the State Department struggling to seal a new START treaty with Russia; Obama preparing for an international nuclear security summit latter this spring; and a once-every-five-years NPT review conference convening this summer, Obama’s nonproliferation agenda would–at best—be distracted with talk of another country-specific U.S. nuclear deal.

But Fair draws our attention to a critical and (perhaps) emerging U.S. foreign policy debate.  And any debate that links American security interests, Pakistan’s internal stability and global nonproliferation norms will expose thorny but unavoidable policy dilemmas.

Fair, a professor at Georgetown University, offers full-text links to a rich body of previously published works.  I particularly recommend Determinants of Popular Support for Iran’s Nuclear Program, India and the US:  Embracing a New Paradigm and Indo-Iranian Ties:  Thicker Than Oil.

From Fair’s article at ForeignPolicy.com:

Pakistan maintains that its dangerous policies are motivated by fears of India. A phased U.S. approach will either diminish this deep-seated insecurity or call Pakistan’s bluff about the rationale for its behavior, motivating the United States to rethink its handling of Pakistan. Either outcome would be an enormous improvement over the stagnant status quo.

Washington must transform its relations with Islamabad (and Rawalpindi, where Pakistan’s military is headquartered) with the same energy and creativity as it did with New Delhi because Washington needs both South Asian states as much as they need Washington. Such a conditions-based deal will take years to come to fruition even if dubious U.S entities and inveterate U.S. foes in Pakistan don’t stand in the way. Putting it on the table now would only be a first step in a strategic gamble that may or may not pay off down the road.

And from another article Fair wrote for Washington Monthly in April 2009:

The Need for Sober Realism

The United States needs to chart a different relationship with Pakistan, relying on different instruments of influence. It needs to lessen its dependence on Pakistan so it can be bolder in applying negative as well as positive inducements to shape Pakistani behavior. It needs to develop a suite of assistance that strengthens Pakistan’s governance capacity and the country’s ability to wage counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations effectively. And it needs to support Pakistani civil society as it debates the kind of country it wants to become and seeks to hold its government to account for its crimes of commission and omission. In the end, despite continued U.S. and international support and assistance along these lines, Pakistan may remain unwilling or unable to relinquish support for militant groups within its territory or in the region. In this case, the United States must be willing to consider Pakistan an ill-suited recipient of U.S. generosity and be willing to deploy punitive measures if need be. Indeed, a credible U.S. threat to apply these sticks may encourage the state to undertake needed steps to secure its own security and that of its neighborhood in the first instance.

Although this may seem untenable at first blush, the alternatives are even worse. If the international community cannot save Pakistan, and if it cannot save itself, then the United States and its partners will have to reorient their efforts toward containing or mitigating the various threats that emanate from Pakistan. This will be a daunting task. The enormity of such efforts should motivate Washington to adopt a realistic policy approach that mobilizes all aspects of U.S. national power to secure a Pakistan at peace with itself and its neighbors.

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Bill Clinton: US India Nuclear Deal “Should be Supported,” But Keeps Door Open to Revisions

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2008

In an apparent sign of things maybe–maybe not–to come, Bill Clinton indicated his support for the US-India nuclear deal. This is not shocking, given Hillary’s vigorous support for the US India nuclear deal. But former President Clinton did leave the door open to revisions–suggesting another grueling round of negotiations should his wife, Hillary Clinton, be elected President this November.

From Sify News:

Underlining strong bipartisan consensus for the deal in his country, he said the US has a made “a decision across parties to build strategic partnership with India in the 21st century”.

“The deal could have been stronger on the “non-proliferation side”, Clinton replied when asked what portions of the deal he would have liked to change if he were the President.

“We did not want to give the Chinese an excuse to develop nuclear weapons,” Clinton replied when asked why such a deal could not be reached during his tenure as the president between 1992 to 2000.

“The agreement should be supported. There’s a strong level of trust between India and the US. The US would be willing should Indians wish to revisit some provisions of the deal,” Clinton said when asked whether a Democratic Party administration would like to renegotiate the deal if they come to power next year.

Is Bill speaking for himself, or rather the policy of a Hillary Clinton administration? Only time will tell.

For more on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, read her recent policy brief in Foreign Affairs.

The Decemeber 2007 brief does touch on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):

But we lost that opportunity by refusing to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq and rushing to war instead. Moreover, we diverted vital military and financial resources from the struggle against al Qaeda and the daunting task of building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism: refusing to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, abandoning our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and turning our backs on the search for peace in the Middle East. Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing.

Posted in America, Clinton, India, Nuclear Deal, US | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

US-India Nuclear Deal: Will Time Run Out?

Posted by K.E. White on January 18, 2008

While groups may be coalescing against the US-India nuclear deal, its passage is still an open question in the twilight days of the Bush administration. But will it meet its summer 2008 deadline?

This AFP article skillfully dissects the difficulties of the US-India nuclear deal:

The nuclear deal with India is virtually stuck on two fronts — in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s administration, where communist and other leftist coalition parties are against it, and at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where New Delhi is struggling to forge critical atomic safeguards.

Bush and Singh agreed more than two years ago that Washington would provide India with nuclear fuel and technology even though the Asian nation has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But India had to place selected nuclear facilities under international safeguards, including inspections, which has to be agreed upon by the IAEA board of directors.

A third round of talks between Indian and IAEA officials ended last week without resolution on India’s demands for a mechanism to create a strategic reserve to meet lifetime fuel supply for its civilian nuclear plants, as well as “corrective measures” in the event of stoppage of fuel to power plants, experts said.

Even if IAEA agreed on the safeguards, the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, another regulatory body which also operates by consensus, has to agree to a US proposal to exempt India from a “full scope safeguards” condition of nuclear supply.

Then, an operational agreement for the nuclear deal that has already been adopted by India and the United States as well as the IAEA safeguards has to be approved by the US Congress before summer for it to be implemented by year end, experts said.

The deadline stems from a tight 2008 legislative calendar ahead of the November US presidential elections.

Some might see the quick exit of Nicolas Burns—an architect of the deal—from the White as a symbolic sign of defeat, support for the deal still exists. The White House still has seemingly locked up key members of the NSG, making that roadblock less likely.

And while domestic opposition to the deal in both America and especially India has grown, the deal has still continued to inch along forward.

Below are clips showing the deal’s continued support from the governments of Britain, Australia and China.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown continues to support of the US-India nuclear deal, but notes any UK-India nuclear cooperation would require some extra work:

Ahead of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit here, Britain on Friday voiced interest in having civil nuclear cooperation with India but said any such collaboration will have to await changes in the international rules.

The nuclear issue is expected to figure in the talks that Brown will have with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Monday. The Summit talks will also cover the subjects of terrorism, climate change and business cooperation besides regional issues.

”Civil Nuclear cooperation (between India and the UK) is dependent on international status (of rules of trade),” British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg said while briefing journalists on Brown’s two-day maiden visit here.

Noting that Britain supports the Indo-US nuclear deal, he said the agreement will ”open opportunities for collaboration which do not exist at present”.

However, Stagg said the ”real opportunity for major India-UK collaboration will require changes” in the status of international rules which New Delhi ”is trying to do” with the IAEA and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

China also supports—or rather will not derail—the nuclear deal. From a Hindu report discussing India Prime Minister Singh’s recent Beijing trip:

He said China had offered support for civil nuclear cooperation in power generation.

China is an important and influential member of the 45-member NSG.

“I cannot say I have got a firm, definite answer but my own feeling is that the relationship of trust and confidence is now establishing, and we are succeeding in that. When the issue comes before relevant agencies, I do not think China will be an obstacle. I can’t say I have an assurance today,” Dr. Singh said when he was asked whether China would support India’s case at the NSG.

And while Australia’s new Labour government has soured on selling uranium to India, it also seems not willing to block the US-India nuclear deal:

AUSTRALIA has left open the option of supporting international uranium sales to India, even though the Rudd Government has ruled out Australian yellowcake exports to the energy-hungry South Asian giant.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced earlier this week that Australia would not sell uranium to India unless it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But a spokesman for Mr Smith said yesterday that the Government has not yet made a decision on whether to block uranium sales to India by other countries — an option open to Australia and members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which sets global export controls for nuclear materials.

Posted in India, Nicolas Burns, Nuclear Deal, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

US India Nuclear Deal “On Pause”

Posted by K.E. White on October 15, 2007

Apparently a cryogenically frozen nuclear deal is not a dead deal.

From the Indo-Asian News Service:

‘The nuclear deal is not off, but is on a state of pause. It is in suspended animation, like the Karnataka assembly,’ the minister said here, not wanting to be quoted on this sensitive issue without proper authorization.

And from NDTV:

”The Prime Minister explained to President Bush that certain difficulties have arisen with respect to the operationalisation of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement,” a release issued by Prime Minister’s Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru said.

The conversation came in the wake of the statement made by the Prime Minister last week on Friday that it would be a disappointment if the deal does not not (sic) come through and that it was ”not the end of life.”

The Prime Minister, who had staked a lot in clinching the deal and to get it operationalised, made the Friday statement in the backdrop of unrelenting opposition to the deal from the Left parties which had warned of grave consequences, an (sic) euphemism for withdrawing support to the UPA government, if the deal was implemented.

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US India Nuclear Deal Hits An Israeli Snag, But Gets a French Boost

Posted by K.E. White on October 2, 2007

The US-India nuclear deal may have hit an Israeli stepback. With the deal already facing fire in New Delhi and still lacking IAEA approval, a new challenge has appeared: Israel is lobbying the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to give India and Israel access to nuclear trade.

Getting the NSG to make an exception for India–a non-NPT recognized nuclear power–already caused turbulence, but had apparently won the support of China and Russia. Will this Israel variable set India back to square one?

Will Turkey really support an exemption only adds emphasis to Pakistan–a non-recognized nuclear power–failure to get the same treatment as Israel and India? And how will this Israeli lobbying be viewed in the Middle East?

But India also got some good news on the NSG front. France, a key member of the group, will actively lobby for an Indian exception to NSG rules that bar nuclear trade with non-NPT member states.

The move was predictable, since France seeks to conclude its own nuclear deal with India.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports on the Israeli complication:

Using the Israeli proposal as an example, the opponents of the Indo-US nuclear deal can argue that any exception to the NPT restriction may open the gate to proliferation as other non-recognised nuclear states may also demand acceptance. Documents outlining Israel’s proposal were distributed among the NSG members in March and have circulated on Capitol Hill in Washington in recent days.

The Israeli plan offers 12 criteria for allowing nuclear trade with non-treaty states, including one that hints at Israel’s status as an undeclared nuclear weapons state: A state should be allowed to engage in nuclear trade if it applies “stringent physical protection, control and accountancy measures to all nuclear weapons, nuclear facilities, source material and special nuclear material in its territory.”

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said the Israeli document could affect the debate over India. “The dynamics at the NSG are that no country wants to stand in the way of the largest country, India, and the most powerful country, the US,” he said.

And The Hindu reports on French support for India’s nuclear exception:

In this regard, France is awaiting the waiver by NSG, the officials said, adding an Indo-French nuclear agreement would be on a “different scale” than the Indo-US deal.

It would involve transfer of crucial reprocessing technology that has been denied by Washington in the Indo-US deal.

“We feel that there is a necessity to introduce a change in the international system (on nuclear issue) to allow India to play its due role in it,” a senior official of the French Atomic Energy Commission told a group of visiting Indian journalists here.

Posted in America, France, France India nuclear deal, India, Israel, Nuclear Deal, Nuclear Suppliers Group, U.S. India Nuclear Deal | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NYTimes Shines Light on IAEA Head ElBaradei, But What About the US-India Nuclear Deal?

Posted by K.E. White on September 17, 2007

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy, snagged the The New York Times front page—well at least the front page of their morning on-line edition.

The piece is part diplomatic update and even-handed psychological portrait of the IAEA director general. The piece shows ElBaradei as industrious and ambitious, tasked with the perhaps impossible situation of mediating the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The article is a good read, but its attempt to caste a general narrative to ElBaradei’s career is a bit madding owing to one glaring exception: ElBaradei’s approval of the US-India nuclear deal.

The discussing ElBaradei’s unprecedented third terms at the IAEA, Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad leave out a critical wrinkle in the IAEA Chief’s career. What does it mean that the IAEA is supporting what critics consider an unfair nuclear give-away to India?

Also what did America extract from ElBaradei for his third term? Perhaps nothing—but perhaps it was endorsing the US-Indian nuclear deal—or merely coming out in force with his approval.

One other addition may have added some flavor to the piece: ElBaradei storming out of an IAEA board of governors meeting. Why the temper tantrum? Anger over the EU not fully supporting his Iranian nuclear time-table, the very diplomatic nugget the article is trying to elucidate.

Posted in Elaine Sciolino, ElBaradei, IAEA, Iran, New York Times, Nuclear Deal, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, William J. Broad | Leave a Comment »

US-India Nuclear Deal On The Ropes?

Posted by K.E. White on September 13, 2007

India’s political parties all are playing games with the US-India nuclear deal. But it seems that the deal will pass, just after a extremely long period of posturing. 

From the International Herald Tribune:

“We are only saying that don’t go now,” PTI quoted Karat as saying. “Wait for some time. Consider our objections and let Parliament opine on it.”

The piece states earlier:

The communist parties that support India’s ruling coalition again threatened to withdraw their support if the government rushes through a nuclear deal with the United States, a news report said Thursday.

“We won’t be there to help this government conclude this agreement,” the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Prakash Karat, said at a conference in the Indian capital, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Karat also criticized the Congress party-led government’s “insistence” in going ahead with the deal and ignoring the views of its left-wing allies, upon which the government’s majority in the 545-seat Parliament depends.

Net-sum? The deal still seems headed for success, at least within India. But all the political parties in India’s multiparty parliamentary system jockeying for electoral success—delaying its passage.

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