WHY BOTHER NEGOTIATING? In an effort to do... well, something, the administration has essentially written a blank check for the Indian nuclear weapons program.
The agreement — also known as the ‘123 agreement’ — grants India “prior consent” to reprocess spent fuel produced by U.S.-supplied equipment and fuel, a key requirement for the Indian side, though the specific arrangements will be worked out subsequently within a finite time period.
The agreement reiterates the fuel-supply assurances provided in the March 2006 separation plan and commits the U.S. to the “continuous operation” of any reactor it sells to India. Officials also say the irksome issue of fallback safeguards and the ‘right of return’ — as mandated by the U.S. Atomic Energy Act — of American-supplied material in the event of cessation of cooperation have also been satisfactorily resolved.
Moreover, 123 includes a specific clause that the purpose of the agreement is not to hinder anything India does with its strategic programme or to affect unsafeguarded or military nuclear facilities.
I'm all for a close U.S. relationship with India; it is, after all, the world's largest democracy. But such a complete disregard on the part of the U.S. for non-proliferation concerns really does hurt efforts at arms control around the world, and increase the chances that new nuclear states will arise. We're moving rapidly from the non-proliferation regime that managed nuclear weapons development from the 1960s (and managed it rather well, all things considered), to a regime that is governed, essentially, by the interests of the United States. Countries we like get blank checks, while those we don't get dire threats. Since international institutions depend on mutual consent and a belief in long-term gains, this kind of behavior doesn't improve global stability. Moreover, even "benevolent" U.S. hegemony depends on the belief by most that such hegemony is basically a good thing; to the extent that it's arbitrary and self-interested, the project is self-defeating.
-- Robert Farley