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U.S. Shifts Its South Asia Nuclear Policy

Moving away from the Clinton administration’s nuclear policy toward South Asia, the Bush administration has apparently decided not to try to persuade India and Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or to give up their nuclear weapons programs.

In a June 18 meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Abdul Sattar, Secretary of State Colin Powell did not raise the issue of CTBT signature, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. When asked during a press briefing the next day whether Indian and Pakistani adherence to the CTBT is still a priority for the United States, Boucher responded, “The important thing to the United States is that nuclear developments not be carried any farther, and to that extent, the emphasis that we place on this in this administration has been that there not be any further testing.”

The Bush administration’s approach contrasts with that of the Clinton administration, which actively tried to convince India and Pakistan to go beyond their testing moratoria—declared by both states following their May 1998 nuclear tests—by signing the CTBT. To realize this objective and other nuclear-related goals in the region, the Clinton team conducted years of bilateral meetings with both states.

The Bush administration also seems to have shifted from the Clinton administration’s ultimate goal of persuading the two South Asian states to relinquish their nuclear weapons programs. At a June 9 press conference in Finland, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the United States and “other interested countries” should encourage India and Pakistan to “learn that is it possible to live with nuclear weapons and not to use them.” Rumsfeld said he hoped that the two countries could “develop a stable situation” like that of the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War. When asked if Rumsfeld’s remarks indicated a policy change, the Pentagon said it was not prepared to comment.

Russia Holds Second GCS Conference

Continuing to build upon a concept it proposed in June 1999, on February 15 Moscow hosted the second conference on its Global Control System (GCS) initiative to combat missile proliferation. Governments from over 70 countries sent high-level representatives, including China, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan—all states of missile proliferation concern. The United States was the only member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an arrangement among 32 countries aiming to stem missile proliferation, that declined to send a representative.

At the first GCS conference in March 2000, Russia outlined the framework for a multilateral regime consisting primarily of an international missile prelaunch notification agreement, a system of incentives for "stimulating and encouraging" states to forgo the possession of missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, and an international forum devoted to continually addressing missile non-proliferation issues.

According to an official familiar with the discussions, at this year's conference GCS participants discussed an international code of conduct on ballistic missile non-proliferation that was first aired at MTCR meetings last year. Unlike the MTCR's restrictions on missile suppliers, the proposed code would tackle ballistic missile non-proliferation from the demand side, placing limitations on states seeking to advance their missile capabilities. Details on the code are not yet public.

According to the official, India and China—both states outside the MTCR regime—seemed willing to consider such a code of conduct, but only under the auspices of the United Nations.

While not attending the conference, Washington agreed last September, in a joint statement with Moscow, to work "on a new mechanism" to integrate the Russian GCS proposal, the missile code of conduct, and the MTCR's existing framework. (See ACT, October 2000.) A U.S. official said that Washington does not support elements of the GCS proposal outside the context of the MTCR.

While the method for building on this year's meeting remains unclear, a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that the conference's participants suggested "a gradual practical elaboration" of the GCS, which may include bringing the proposal to the UN.

Clinton Allows Helicopter-Parts Transfer to India

On January 19, President Bill Clinton authorized a one-time waiver of sanctions to permit New Delhi a limited number of spare parts for some of its Sea King naval helicopters. U.S. government officials stressed that the waiver only applied to specific parts already in the supply pipeline and did not constitute a blanket waiver for future transfers.

Manufactured in the United Kingdom by Westland Helicopters, India's Sea Kings were built under license from Sikorsky, a U.S. helicopter company, and incorporate U.S.-origin parts. After India conducted five nuclear tests, the United States, as mandated under the Arms Export Control Act, imposed comprehensive sanctions on India. The sanctions, which barred the sale of defense articles and services, froze work being done in the United Kingdom to service some of the Indian helicopters.

Indian government officials and press have claimed that roughly 60 percent of the Sea King fleet is grounded and that the operations of flyable aircraft are severely limited. India has purchased a total of 42 Sea Kings, which perform anti-submarine and search and rescue operations. Clinton's waiver covers some 200 individual components, according to a Westland Helicopters spokesman, who noted the action will enable only a "handful" of India's helicopters to resume activity.

New Delhi had lobbied the United States to lift the sanctions. By some accounts, India enlisted British support by suggesting that it would be more likely to conclude negotiations for the purchase of as many as 66 British Hawk trainer aircraft if London would talk to Washington on its behalf. Recent news reports suggest India may close the Hawk deal by April. None of the three governments would comment.

A State Department official, however, confirmed that an incident in which a U.S. sailor was emergency air lifted by an Indian Sea King helicopter to a hospital to receive urgent medical attention factored in the Clinton decision. The official emphasized that the Sea King's capability to perform search and rescue missions in general was an important consideration.

India, Russia Finalize Battle Tank Contract

Russia and India concluded a contract for 310 T-90 battle tanks February 15 in New Delhi, finalizing an agreement initially set for signing last fall. Under the terms of the deal, India will receive 124 of Russia's top-of-the-line tanks directly from Moscow and assemble another 186 at a domestic plant. The final price tag, not publicly revealed, is estimated at between $600 million and $750 million.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to sign the contract last October during his first visit to India, but last-minute haggling over the price and initial payment delayed the deal, which India claims will offset Pakistan's 1996 purchase of 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine. Russia lowered its price over the past few months, enabling Russian Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov and Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes to sign the contract. The two officials reportedly discussed further arms deals, including the possible lease of four Tu-22M Backfire bombers to India.

Completion of the tank deal removed one more item from a list of pending arms buys left outstanding from last October. On December 28 last year, the two countries signed an estimated $3 billion agreement—preliminarily approved in October—for Indian manufacture of 140 Su-30MKI fighter aircraft under licensed production from Russia. Still awaiting final resolution is India's expected acquisition of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and possibly MiG-29K fighters to outfit it.

Russia is also reportedly selling India, as well as North Korea, portable anti-aircraft missile systems. Russia and the 32 other countries of the Wassenaar Arrangement pledged last December to abide by strict, though not legally binding, guidelines for exporting such weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2001.) A U.S. government official said Washington is "engaging" Russia on the purported sales.

Russia Ships Nuclear Fuel to India

In apparent violation of its non-proliferation commitments, Russia followed through in February with a deal to ship low-enriched uranium to India's nuclear power station at Tarapur. The Tarapur site, located in the state of Maharashtra, contains two U.S.-built 160-megawatt light-water reactors that the United States supplied with fuel until 1980.

The deal, which was reportedly made in August, has raised objections from Washington. A February 16 statement by State Department spokesman Philip Reeker expressed deep "regret" over Russia's "violation" of its commitments as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The group, a 39-nation regime of nuclear supplier states, has undertaken not to transfer nuclear materials or technology to non-nuclear-weapon states without International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards at all their nuclear sites. While the Tarapur reactors have been under IAEA safeguards since 1994, other Indian nuclear sites are not safeguarded.

Under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India is considered a non-nuclear-weapon state, despite its nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998.

Reeker added that at a December NSG meeting the "overwhelming majority" of members expressed their "strong concerns" about the then-pending transfer, which "they regarded as inconsistent with Russia's commitments." He said that Washington joins "other nuclear suppliers in calling on Russia to cancel this supply arrangement and live up to its non-proliferation obligations." Reeker further said that Russia's transfer of "sensitive technologies to other countries" would be an "important item" on the Bush administration's agenda.

Moscow claims that it is not violating its NSG commitments, contending it is supplying the fuel for the reactors' "safe operation." NSG guidelines do permit nuclear material transfers to non-nuclear-weapon states without all their facilities safeguarded if the shipment is essential for safety purposes.

India Tests Agni-2 Ballistic Missile

India conducted its second flight test of the Agni-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) on January 17. In a statement released shortly after the launch, the Indian Defense Ministry noted that the missile was tested in its "final operational configuration" and that "mission objectives were met satisfactorily."

The road-mobile, two-stage, solid-fueled Agni-2 is New Delhi's most advanced missile system. It can deliver a 1,000-kilogram payload more than 2,000 kilometers, reaching targets throughout Pakistan and much of western China and Southeast Asia. The Indian defense minister's scientific adviser, V.K. Aatre, told reporters January 25 that the nuclear-capable missile will be inducted into the Indian arsenal sometime this year.

India tested the IRBM at the Interim Test Range at Chandipur, in the eastern state of Orissa. According to the Indian Foreign Ministry, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Pakistan, and Japan were notified in advance of the impending test in accordance with an agreement signed in Lahore in 1999.

India first tested the Agni-2 in April 1999, approximately one year after its 1998 nuclear tests. At that time, Pakistan responded quickly with missile tests of its own.

This year, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry reacted with a statement characterizing India's nuclear and missile programs as "ambitious" and saying they posed "a direct threat to Pakistan's security." The ministry also reiterated Islamabad's October 1998 proposal to develop a "Strategic Restraint Regime to promote nuclear and conventional stabilization and to strengthen peace and stability in South Asia."

Russia, India Sign Secret Nuclear Energy Accord

November 2000

By Alex Wagner

Building on a history of nuclear cooperation, Russia and India signed a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) October 4 to pursue future "cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy." The MOU was one of several agreements, including a declaration of strategic partnership, signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's October 2-4 visit to New Delhi. (See Russian-Indian Summit Firms Up Conventional Arms Deals.)

The heart of the MOU is a groundbreaking commitment by Russia to assist India with meeting its growing nuclear energy requirements, according to an October 5 article in The Hindu. The Indian daily also reported that the MOU states that the proposed areas of nuclear cooperation would not violate any of Russia's international commitments that restrict the transfer of nuclear materials.

Russia is obligated by its membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) not to transfer any nuclear or dual-use materials to states that have not concluded full-scope safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The NSG, a voluntary regime of nuclear-supplier states, only permits nuclear transfer to states without full-scope safeguards if the transfer was agreed to before the adoption of the NSG's revised guidelines in 1992 or if the transfer is required for safety reasons in exceptional cases. Russia reaffirmed its commitment to NSG export guidelines in May. (See ACT, June 2000.)

The U.S. government expressed concern that continued Russian cooperation with India, whose facilities are not under full-scope safeguards, could damage the credibility of the NSG regime. In an October 30 interview, a State Department official said that the United States "does not believe that any NSG member should provide nuclear assistance to a non-nuclear-weapon state that does not have full-scope safeguards."

However, a Russian source knowledgeable of the issue speculated that the MOU might place "conditions on cooperation" by which India would have to sign an agreement with the IAEA on full-scope safeguards. The source said that it is now up to Russian diplomats to explain to and persuade the United States and other NSG states that Russia's cooperation with India fully conforms to its international obligations.

Russia has been involved with India in peaceful nuclear energy cooperation, in apparent violation of its NSG commitments, for some time. On October 6, Yevgeny Adamov, Russia's minister of atomic energy, reaffirmed long-standing plans to "at least sign a contract on the construction" of two reactors at the Indian site of Kudankulam, according to the Russian official news agency Itar-Tass.

In 1988, the Soviet Union agreed to build India two 1000-megawatt light-water nuclear reactors at Kudankulam. Russia has claimed since the mid-1990s that since it reached the agreement before the NSG's 1992 adoption of revised guidelines that the Kudankulam deal is legal as a "grandfathered" contract. However, although the Soviet Union and India had reached an understanding on building the reactors, no official agreement was signed nor was any money exchanged. The United States, therefore, does not consider the 1988 deal exempt from NSG restrictions, according to a State Department official.

Moscow also agreed August 16 to supply low-enriched uranium fuel for the "safe operation" of an Indian nuclear power station at Tarapur, the Russian news agency Interfax reported. Russia claims that the transfer is essential for safety purposes and is therefore permissible. A State Department official said that Russia's deal to supply fuel to Tarapur "does not come close" to meeting the NSG's safety requirements.

The United States and Russia are set to convene the NSG in Vienna by mid-November to discuss Moscow's nuclear cooperation with New Delhi.

Russia, India Sign Secret Nuclear Energy Accord

Russian-Indian Summit Firms Up Conventional Arms Deals

November 2000

By Wade Boese

During Russian President Vladimir Putin's first visit to India, Russia and India solidified arms deals potentially worth billions to Moscow and signed a host of cooperation agreements, including a declaration on strategic partnership. Though press reports from both countries carried varying details of whether final contracts were signed during the October 2-5 trip, it appears that India will eventually acquire hundreds of Russian tanks, fighter aircraft, and an aircraft carrier and that it may lease strategic bombers.

In the works for years, the centerpiece of the arms package agreed to October 4 by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes and Russian Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov is the purchase of 310 T-90 battle tanks, 124 of which will reportedly be shipped whole from Russia, with the other 186 being coproduced in India. The T-90s will replace aging Soviet-era tanks and, according to Indian defense officials, will be used to offset Pakistan's 1996 buy of 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine.

India will receive technology transfers to manufacture 140 Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft under licensed production. New Delhi is still waiting for Russia to complete delivery of 40 Su-30s ordered in 1996 for $1.8 billion. To date, India has yet to receive even half of the aircraft, and some of the fighters already delivered still need to be upgraded to match the specifications in the original contract.

The Indian navy will receive the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov for the cost of refurbishing the ship, which is expected to total at least $400 million and perhaps as much as $750 million. As part of the deal, the navy will also purchase MiG-29K fighters to base on the carrier. The most commonly cited number of MiGs to be bought is 24, though some reports suggest as few as 13 and others more than 40.

In addition, India may reportedly lease up to four Tu-22M Backfire bombers from Russia. The Backfire, which first entered serial production in the early 1970s, is a long-range, low-level penetration bomber designed to carry out conventional or nuclear strikes against surface targets.

This spate of Indian arms buys, which Pakistan criticized October 9 as destabilizing, follows a September deal with France to buy 10 Mirage 2000H fighter aircraft and a June deal to purchase 40 Mi-17 combat transport helicopters from Russia. India is also currently negotiating with Britain to purchase as many as 66 Hawk trainer aircraft, and it is exploring options for airborne early-warning and aerial-refueling aircraft and anti-aircraft systems. A 28 percent increase in the defense budget early this year helped pave the way for India's latest weapons procurement spree.

To facilitate and "upgrade" future defense cooperation, according to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the two countries agreed October 3 to establish an Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation. Fernandes and Klebanov will head the delegations for their respective sides. Along with China, India is already one of Russia's top arms customers, but some Indian officials have expressed concern about Moscow's reliability as a supplier of spare parts, technology, and services.

Russia and India also issued a declaration on strategic partnership October 3 that calls for the two countries to consolidate "defence and military-technical cooperation in a long-term perspective." In addition to pledging to hold annual summits, improve economic ties, and combat terrorism, the declaration stated that Russia and India would cooperate in the "peaceful use" of nuclear energy and outer space. (See Russia, India Sign Secret Nuclear Energy Accord.) The two sides emphasized that the strategic partnership is not a military-political alliance and is not directed against any other country.

On arms control issues, the two leaders noted in a joint statement that both countries would work toward the "early commencement" of fissile material cutoff treaty negotiations at the UN Conference on Disarmament and "stressed the need for full implementation" of arms control treaties, specifically the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Russian-Indian Summit Firms Up Conventional Arms Deals

India Reaffirms Its CTBT Policy, Pakistan Follows

October 2000

By Alex Wagner

President Bill Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee issued a joint statement September 15 reaffirming India's voluntary suspension of nuclear testing pending entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its commitment not to block the treaty's entry into force. In an apparent response, Pakistan said it would also maintain its testing moratorium until the CTBT enters into force.

Vajpayee and Clinton discussed the test ban, among other issues, over the course of a four-day summit in Washington. The summit was the second between the two leaders in six months, and the joint statement appears to marginally expand India's pledge during Clinton's March visit to New Delhi at which India "reaffirmed" its "voluntary commitment to forgo further nuclear tests." (See ACT, April 2000.) The most recent statement again "reaffirmed that, subject to its supreme national interests, [India] will continue its voluntary moratorium until the [CTBT] comes into effect" and will not "block entry into force of the Treaty."

At a September 15 press conference, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth told reporters that the statement was "a new element" in the U.S.-Indian relationship because it "spelled out" the Indian government's intention to continue a moratorium on nuclear tests until the CTBT enters into force. However, both Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh, the Indian foreign minister, have repeatedly stressed India's willingness to convert its testing moratorium into a "de jure obligation."

By agreeing not to block the CTBT's entry into force, India appears to be consenting to sign and ratify the test ban as long as the other 43 states needed to ratify under Article XIV have done so first. Given that such an assurance implicitly involves both signature and ratification of the test ban by a number of countries, including Pakistan and North Korea, India's non-signature will not impede the CTBT's entry into force for some time.

A U.S. official said that despite the overall success of the Vajpayee visit and the additional language on the CTBT in the joint statement, New Delhi is no closer to signing the treaty than it was when Clinton visited India in March. In fact, according to the official, New Delhi has done little to develop a "national consensus" on the treaty—an oft-cited precondition to India's signature.

Mirroring India's pledge, at a September 25 news conference Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said, "Pending CTBT entry into force, Pakistan will maintain its moratorium and refrain from further tests unless another extraordinary event occurs that jeopardizes [its] security interests." According to the Pakistani embassy in Washington, the statement represents an "enhancement" of Pakistan's CTBT policy because it affixes a time frame to the initially "open-ended" moratorium imposed after Pakistan's nuclear tests in May 1998.

India Reaffirms Its CTBT Policy, Pakistan Follows

Treading Lightly in South Asia, Clinton Reaffirms Non-Proliferation Goals

Matthew Rice

IN THE FIRST trip of a U.S. president to South Asia since the Carter administration, President Clinton attempted to carefully balance efforts to build a stronger relationship with India with expressions of concern about continuing proliferation risks in the region. While the trip, which spanned March 20-25, did not resolve the many differences between the United States and India and Pakistan on the non-proliferation front, Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did pledge to continue high-level dialogue on the subject.

The only tangible result of the Indian visit was a joint statement by Clinton and Vajpayee reaffirming their "respective voluntary commitments to forgo further nuclear explosive tests" and to work together to build stronger export controls and negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty. The two leaders also pledged to schedule regular presidential summits and to continue the talks between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, which have been the states' primary forum for dialogue on the nuclear issue since 1998.

A joint statement was not released after the president's half-day visit to Pakistan, but a senior administration official reported a "very firm assurance" from Pakistan's head of state General Pervez Musharraf that "Pakistan would not be the source of export of any dangerous technologies or weapons of mass destruction."

Though he avoided lecturing either government, at virtually every public speaking engagement Clinton asserted that the nuclear path would not enhance the security of either India or Pakistan. Appearing before the Indian parliament March 22, he noted that "India's nuclear policies, inevitably, have consequences beyond [its] borders: eroding the barriers against the spread of nuclear weapons…encouraging others to keep their options open." In a March 25 speech in Islamabad, he urged the Pakistani people to ask themselves, "Are you really more secure today than you were before you tested nuclear weapons? Will these weapons make war with India less likely, or simply more deadly?"

The response to Clinton's visit, especially in India, was positive on the whole, but mixed on the non-proliferation issue. Vajpayee reaffirmed to Clinton the security concerns that continued to drive India toward reliance on a nuclear deterrent, and the president seemed to acknowledge that, at least on this visit, little was to be gained by condemning that choice. During his speech to the Indian parliament, Clinton was interrupted by applause when he declared, "Only India can determine its own interests. Only India can know if it truly is safer today than before the tests."

Perhaps the only harsh words spoken during the visit came during the state dinner held March 21, when Indian President Kocheril Raman Narayan decried attempts to describe Kashmir as a flashpoint for nuclear war. Such statements, he said, "will only encourage those who want to break the peace and indulge in terrorism and violence."

A breakthrough on nuclear issues during Clinton's visit had not been expected, either by the administration or outside analysts. Acknowledging that there has been "little concrete progress" toward the non-proliferation benchmarks set out following the May 1998 nuclear tests, Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, noted March 16 that India and Pakistan have "grown overconfident about their ability to control events and control escalation…. Any limits on their programs have been kept to themselves." Those benchmarks included restraint on nuclear weapons deployment, movement toward signing the CTBT, restricted production of fissile materials, and establishment of effective export controls for nuclear-related technology.

The administration made clear that non-proliferation goals would not prevent progress in other aspects of the bilateral relationship—to a point. The president seeks a "huge and varied relationship" with India, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said March 21. While contending that the United States and India "ought to be talking about issues that are beyond and around the non-proliferation issue," Albright reminded New Delhi that "narrowing our differences on non-proliferation is important to realizing the full potential of our relationship." When pushed for clarification, White House national security adviser Samuel Berger indicated that the statement referred to restrictions on cooperation in U.S. non-proliferation law, notably the 1977 Glenn Amendment, which prohibits assistance to any non-nuclear-weapon state that detonates a nuclear device.

Treading Lightly in South Asia, Clinton Reaffirms Non-Proliferation Goals


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