A Nuclear Arms Race In South Asia?Printable Version
A Nuclear Security Study Group Conversation with Robert Einhorn and Will Marshall.
September 12, 2006
For an MP3 audio recording of this event, $FILE(44,click here.)
“It seems the ingredients for a nuclear arms race are present in South Asia,” said CNP’s Vice President Scott Bates as he opened a September 12th meeting of the Nuclear Security Study Group with two leading national security experts, Robert Einhorn, a former Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation and an arms control expert at CSIS, and Will Marshall, President of the Progressive Policy Institute and author of the new book, With All Our Might: A Progressive Strategy for Defeating Jihadism.
The three experts led a spirited discussion of the merits of the new agreement the Bush administration recently reached with India on its nuclear program. Under the proposed deal, India would become an accepted nuclear power, after having developed and tested a nuclear weapon outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The proposed deal, Einhorn argued, is counterproductive to overall U.S. nuclear non-proliferation goals because it fails to place any limits on India’s nuclear weapons program and will permit India’s importation of nuclear fuel for use in civilian reactors, thereby freeing up a limited fuel supply that could be used for military purposes. Einhorn argued that while India currently has the capacity to produce five to ten nuclear bombs a year, after implementation of the proposed nuclear agreement, its nuclear bomb producing capability could increase tenfold. He also noted that if the deal were approved, the cost of “going nuclear” would be lowered for states considering whether to build nuclear programs, such as South Korea, Turkey and Egypt. Nations such as Iran, he argued, would know that the price to be paid for operating outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would be of little consequence and short duration. Moreover, the deal would diminish the credibility of U.S. efforts to press Russia to cease cooperation in developing Iran’s nuclear program.
Will Marshall acknowledged that if one were looking solely through the prism of arms control, the U.S.-India nuclear agreement would not seem to be beneficial. However, he argued, India is a nation of tremendous importance on the world stage, a global “swing state” that would long remember the goodwill extended by the U.S. in confirming their nuclear status with the proposed deal, and would serve to send a message to others of the positive affects of cooperation on nuclear matters. Marshall said that it was time to “take India out of the nuclear penalty box.” He noted that India had never signed the NPT agreement, and thus had made the “nuclear jump” honorably and not in violation of a signed agreement.
Marshall suggested that a U.S.-India deal would simply ratify reality and that the motivations of states interested in a nuclear program, such as Pakistan and Iran, would not be altered by Indian behavior. Under the proposed U.S.-India nuclear agreement, Marshall believes that India would place most of its nuclear facilities under international safeguards, aiding overall U.S. non-proliferation goals.
Bates suggested that the “law of unintended consequences” might apply to the nuclear situation in South Asia, with a seemingly benign U.S.-India nuclear agreement triggering a Pakistani nuclear cooperation deal with China, thereby potentially sparking an arms race in South Asia. Einhorn also voiced concern regarding the potential for a new round of nuclear testing in South Asia that could possibly include China. Many in the group agreed that Pakistan and India should reach an agreement on what constitutes a “minimum nuclear deterrent” and accept a test ban in the interest of heading off a nuclear arms race in South Asia.