"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004

South Asia Is A More Dangerous Place After the 1998 Nuclear Tests

By Daryl G. Kimball Thirteen years after the May 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear test explosions, South Asia is a more dangerous place. India's May 11 and 13 nuclear test explosions were its first since its inaugural nuclear weapons test in 1974. Pakistan responded soon thereafter and conducted its first nuclear weapons test detonations (five) on May 28 in the Chagai Hills region. The nuclear tests immediately increased tensions in the region and shocked the world. In India and Pakistan, the test stirred up an orgy of nuclear nationalism in some quarters and prompted protest in others...

India Rejects U.S. Firms for Fighter Deal

Xiaodon Liang

The Indian government has eliminated U.S. aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin from an estimated $10 billion tender competition for a medium multirole combat aircraft despite strong U.S. government support for the proposals.

In an April 28 statement, the U.S. embassy in New Delhi said it had learned the previous day that the Indian government had not selected either of the two U.S. bids for the final stage of the procurement process. The original field of six aircraft now has been narrowed to two: the French Dassault Rafale and the multinational Eurofighter consortium’s Typhoon.

Boeing offered the Indian air force the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, while Lockheed Martin offered the F-16IN Super Viper. Indian officials also have eliminated bids by Saab of Sweden and RSK MiG of Russia. The tender calls for the delivery of 18 completed aircraft and the joint production in India of another 108, at a total initial cost of roughly $10 billion. Follow-on spare parts sales and maintenance costs could increase that figure over the lifespan of the aircraft.

In the U.S. embassy statement, Ambassador Timothy Roemer said that despite being “deeply disappointed,” the United States looked forward “to continuing to grow and develop our defense partnership with India.”

The U.S. government has backed the efforts of arms manufacturers to expand their business with India, in part by working with the Indian government to reach agreement on end-use monitoring arrangements in 2009 to clear the way for the export of advanced U.S. equipment. (See ACT, September 2009.) Speaking in Baltimore Oct. 13, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said 27,000 U.S. jobs would be generated by the success of either U.S. bid. While in India in November, President Barack Obama said that a strong defense trade relationship would benefit both countries. (See ACT, December 2010.)


The Indian government has eliminated U.S. aerospace companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin from an estimated $10 billion tender competition for a medium multirole combat aircraft despite strong U.S. government support for the proposals.

India Nuclear Deal: Dumb and Dumber

By Daryl G. Kimball One of the chief proponents of the disastrous 2008 civil nuclear trade exemption for India, Ashley Tellis, is apparently a bit sour about this week's announcement from the Indian government that it will pursue the purchase of the European Eurofighter and French Rafale aircraft rather than U.S. made F-18 (Boeing) or F-16 (Lockheed Martin) as part of its drive to build up its conventional military capabilities. The Hindu reports today: Questioning whether these aircraft represented the best value for the IAF and the best investments for India overall, Mr. Tellis said to The...

Thinking Existentially about the Worldwide Threat

Image Source: AP By Greg Thielmann A panel of scientists provided a useful update today on the latest thinking about the climatic consequences of nuclear weapons use. The presentation provided a grim reminder that the nuclear Sword of Damocles still hangs over all nations of the earth, nuclear and non-nuclear powers alike – notwithstanding the significant achievement of New START ratification by the United States and Russia. At the annual meeting in Washington of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Georgiy Stenchikov (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology),...

India Seen Unlikely to Join NSG Soon

Daniel Horner

In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

President Barack Obama made the commitment of support in a Nov. 8 joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Obama’s visit to India.

Part of the reason for the long timeline for Indian entry is that the NSG, which now has 46 members, makes decisions by consensus, the sources said. But they also cited the multistage process that would be required before India was eligible, as well as the commitment by the United States and other NSG countries to reach agreement on a long-standing issue—the revision of the group’s export guidelines on transfers of certain nuclear technology—before they took up the question of Indian membership.

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty.

Until two years ago, India was not eligible to receive exports from NSG members because it is a non-NPT state and does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections. But in response to a U.S.-led initiative, the group agreed to lift that requirement for India in return for certain nonproliferation “commitments and actions.” (See ACT, October 2008.) The United States created a similar exception from its nuclear export law. U.S. officials emphasized that the decision was only for India.

In a Nov. 29 interview, a Department of State official said the United States does not see the new initiative as a “repeat” of the 2008 decision. Rather than creating a unique exception for India, the initiative signals an effort to begin discussions on “evolving” the membership criteria of the NSG and other export control regimes so that non-NPT countries can become eligible, she said.

Israel and Pakistan also have never been NPT parties and maintain unsafeguarded nuclear programs.

According to the joint statement, the United States “intends to support” Indian membership in those regimes “in a phased manner, and to consult with regime members to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes, as the Government of India takes steps towards the full adoption of the regimes’ export control requirements to reflect its prospective membership, with both processes moving forward together.”

That would mean that the NSG would have to agree on the revised membership criteria and then determine whether India met those criteria, the State Department official said.

Before the easing of the NSG export restrictions in 2008, India stated its unilateral adherence to the group’s guidelines. The official declined to comment on whether India’s export controls currently meet NSG guidelines, but said that, as an NSG adherent, India is expected to “keep current” with the guidelines as they change.

Critics have said that because India already has made a commitment to meet the NSG’s export standards, which are nonbinding, the new initiative requires nothing from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership, chiefly, recognition as a responsible nuclear state and the ability to have a say in the group’s decisions.

The official countered that there is a benefit to the nonproliferation regime in having India participate in the discussion and the exchanges of information that take place within the NSG. Membership may give India “more of a stake” in the regime, she said.

One Initiative at a Time

Two officials from NSG member countries said the group is not planning to take up the question of Indian membership until the NSG works out a revision of guidelines on exports relating to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. The NSG has been wrestling with that issue since 2004.

In a Nov. 22 interview, a U.S. official said that the U.S. priority in the NSG is “100 percent” on revamping the guidelines on sensitive nuclear exports. The United States is not “contemplating discussion at this time” on Indian membership, he said.

The U.S. government is hoping the NSG will reach consensus on the guidelines revision this year, he said.

The NSG’s Consultative Group met in Vienna Nov. 10-11, but “we are where we were before the meeting” on guidelines for sensitive exports, the official said.

A European diplomat said in a Nov. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today that “the Chair [New Zealand] is working away on this with the countries most concerned, but it appears likely at present that this issue will have to come back to Plenary.” The change in the guidelines would have to take place at a plenary meeting, which the NSG typically holds once a year. The next plenary is scheduled for June in the Dutch town of Noordwijk. Changing the guidelines before then would require a special plenary to be convened.

In late 2008, the NSG produced a “clean text” and appeared to be close to reaching agreement (see ACT, December 2008), but efforts have stalled since then. In recent months, several observers have cited Turkey as the principal obstacle.

The U.S. official said there have been changes made in the text “to accommodate a number of concerns, not just Turkey[’s].”

In October, Gary Samore, the White House arms control coordinator, indicated that the United States would consider dropping the six-year-old effort to revise the guidelines if it did not bear fruit soon. (See ACT, November 2010.) But in the interview, the U.S. official said Samore’s comments were not inconsistent with the ongoing U.S. effort. Samore’s point was that “our patience isn’t going to last forever,” he said.

Cynical Interpretation

Some observers, noting the hurdles to Indian membership and the time frame that would be required, have questioned whether the United States actually intends to pursue the effort vigorously. They suggested that the Obama administration might have made the announcement to give a near-term boost to U.S.-Indian relations.

One House staffer, who called the initiative “terrible” for nonproliferation, said Nov. 16 that he is “hoping it was pure cynicism,” that is, that the administration was promising something that it “know[s] would never happen.”

The State Department official said, “People will believe what they want to believe,” but emphasized, “I certainly see this as doable.”


In spite of a U.S. pledge of support for Indian membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), New Delhi is not likely to enter the group anytime soon, sources said last month.

Obama Easing Export Controls on India

Eric Auner

The United States is pursuing several initiatives to loosen export controls and multilateral technology restrictions on India, U.S. officials announced during President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6-9 trip to India.

At a Nov. 8 joint press conference with Obama in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the shift in U.S. policy toward fewer restrictions on India, calling it a “manifestation of the growing trust and confidence” between the two countries. The United States and India have agreed to cooperate further in “space, civil nuclear, defense, and other high-end sectors,” he said.

The Obama administration also announced its support for a permanent Indian seat on the UN Security Council, a longtime foreign policy goal for India.

Greater Indian participation in multilateral export control regimes was a priority for both sides during the trip. The United States “intends to support India’s full membership” in four international regimes that control the spread of sensitive technology, according to a White House document summarizing the U.S.-Indian partnership on export controls and nonproliferation.

Most significant among these is the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which sets rules on the transfer of technologies that potentially could be used for a nuclear weapons program. In 2008, India obtained a waiver from the NSG that allowed it to conduct nuclear commerce with NSG members. India has not signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and it does not place all of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, requirements under the NSG’s nonbinding guidelines for nuclear commerce with the group’s members. (See ACT, October 2008.)

The other export control groups are the Missile Technology Control Regime, which sets export guidelines intended to restrict missile proliferation; the Australia Group, which aims to restrict the spread of chemical and biological weapons; and the Wassenaar Arrangement, which seeks to control the export of conventional weapons and dual-use goods. The groups have a range of criteria for membership. For example, the “Basic Documents” of the Wassenaar Arrangement require, among other things, that a state “adhere” to the NPT.

India’s nuclear-armed neighbor China is not a member of any of these groups except the NSG. Pakistan, India’s other nuclear-armed neighbor, is not a member of any.

The United States does not by itself have the authority to give India membership in any of these groups. All four make decisions about new members by consensus, and India and its supporters will have to convince current members that Indian laws and practices are consistent with each group’s guidelines.

Membership in these bodies would allow India to play a role in setting the trade rules for various sensitive technologies. Given that these bodies operate by consensus, India also would have the ability to block rule changes or the admission of additional members.

“Entity List” Trimmed

During the Nov. 8 joint press conference, Obama also announced his administration’s intention to remove a number of Indian organizations from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Entity List. U.S. companies must obtain a special license to trade certain goods with organizations on the entity list. The final decision to remove an organization is made by the End-User Review Committee, which is composed of representatives from several government agencies.

Several organizations involved with India’s nuclear, space, and missile programs were placed on the entity list following India’s 1998 nuclear tests. Most have been removed from the list already, but several organizations remain.

The entities newly slated for removal are four subsidiaries of the Indian Space Research Organization, which is responsible for India’s civilian space program, including satellite launches; Bharat Dynamics Ltd., which is involved in the development and manufacture of India’s missile systems, including the Agni series of ballistic missiles; and four subsidiaries of the Defence Research and Development Organization, which is the main government agency responsible for developing weapons systems such as the Arjun main battle tank and is involved with India’s general military acquisitions process.

After the removal of these organizations from the entity list, trade with them in sensitive technologies will continue to be subject to normal U.S. export licensing procedures. Furthermore, three Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) entities remain on the list, and there has been no announcement about removing them. These include the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, one of India’s most important facilities for nuclear research and development. The DAE is primarily responsible for India’s nuclear energy industry and nuclear weapons arsenal.

In a Nov. 8 address to both houses of the Indian parliament, Obama said these changes would ensure that Indian companies seeking American technology “are treated the same as our very closest allies and partners.”

Increased Defense Cooperation

Obama and Singh released a joint Nov. 8 statement that discussed the “transformation” in bilateral defense cooperation and indicated “resolve” to promote “trade and cooperation in defense equipment and technology.” The Obama administration has promoted defense sales to India as a way to foster closer diplomatic ties between the two countries and create jobs in the United States.

An October Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the U.S.-Indian relationship said India is “potentially spending $100 billion over the next decade” on its military. U.S. access to the Indian defense market has been complicated by U.S. export controls and an Indian requirement that a certain percentage of each defense purchase be physically manufactured in India.

India does want a closer defense relationship with the United States, but it has to make commercial sense for U.S. companies,” Sunil Dasgupta, co-author of a recent book on Indian military modernization, said in a Nov. 16 interview. In addition, Indian armed forces will need assurances that U.S. companies will be “reliable suppliers,” he said.

Several commercial deals between U.S. companies and the Indian government were discussed on the margins of Obama’s visit, according to a White House document explaining several recent U.S. sales to India in the context of efforts to increase U.S. exports. Boeing and the Indian air force “have reached preliminary agreement” on the sale of 10 C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft, a transaction valued at approximately $4.1 billion, the document said. If “training, equipment, spare parts, and other support” are included, the deal may be worth as much as $5.8 billion, according to the CRS report.

General Electric has been selected to supply 107 light combat aircraft engines, a sale valued at approximately $822 million, according to the White House document.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing are among the international arms manufacturers competing to sell 126 multirole aircraft to India worth approximately $11 billion, according to the CRS report. If either of the two U.S. companies won the competition, it would mark the first time India had chosen a U.S. firm to supply combat aircraft.

In a Nov. 5 speech in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said U.S.-Indian defense cooperation should go further. “[T]here is no reason why we cannot work to facilitate India’s development of advanced defense capabilities,” including nuclear submarines and missile defense architecture, he said.


The United States is pursuing several initiatives to loosen export controls and multilateral technology restrictions on India, U.S. officials announced during President Barack Obama’s Nov. 6-9 trip to India.

At a Nov. 8 joint press conference with Obama in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the shift in U.S. policy toward fewer restrictions on India, calling it a “manifestation of the growing trust and confidence” between the two countries. The United States and India have agreed to cooperate further in “space, civil nuclear, defense, and other high-end sectors,” he said.


John McCain: U.S. Should "Facilitate" Indian Missile Defense, Nuclear Subs

By Eric Auner About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see John McCain speak about the future of U.S.-India relations. Most of it was boilerplate material about oldest democracy/largest democracy and the need for stability in Asia. All of that's good, but he made a few points that merit a response. McCain had this to say: [T]here is no reason why we cannot work to facilitate India's deployment of advanced defense capabilities, such as nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, missile defense architecture, as well as India's inclusion in the development of the Joint Strike Fighter. It is one...

Obama's Message to India: Proliferation Violations Don't Have Consequences

By Daryl G. Kimball Today in Mumbai, President Barack Obama told U.S.-Indian business leaders that he would seek India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)--the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India's first nuclear weapon test blast, which used plutonium produced with nuclear technology from Canada and the United States. According the official NSG Web site , India's 1974 test explosion "demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused." U.S. support for Indian membership in the NSG undermines...

Will No-Test Condition Sink India-Japan Nuclear Deal?

By Eric Auner As I reported in September, India and Japan have been discussing a potential civil nuclear deal. As a major supporter of the nonproliferation regime, Japan has suggested that it will attach a condition whereby cooperation would cease in the event of a future Indian test. As Global Security Newswire reports, India is unenthusiastic about such a condition: India has spurned suggested language in a nuclear trade agreement with Japan that would freeze the deal should the South Asian state carry out another atomic test blast, Kyodo News reported today (see GSN, Aug. 23). "I hear...

India Passes Nuclear Liability Bill

Eric Auner

The Indian parliament has approved a bill that sets up a mechanism to compensate victims and defines who is liable, and to what extent, in the case of a nuclear accident. The bill makes nuclear supplier firms, in addition to the nuclear facility operator, potentially liable for such an accident.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, Aug. 30 amid intense debate.

The bill seeks to enable the entry of private firms into the Indian civil nuclear market. Private nuclear firms typically require a legal cap on liability in order to insure themselves against accidents in a given country, and India previously lacked a regime that assigned legal liability. Government-owned firms, such as those in France and Russia, are covered by their respective governments and are not as dependent on a liability cap. U.S. nuclear suppliers are privately owned.

The U.S.-India Business Council in Washington released a statement Aug. 30, saying India should not channel liability to suppliers. “The absence of an effective, CSC [Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage]-compliant liability regime could preclude involvement by the private sector…and stymie India’s multi-year effort to develop civil nuclear power” the council said.

In 2005, President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced an approach to easing U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions on India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and conducted nuclear test explosions in 1974 and 1998. In return for access to the global nuclear market, India agreed to place some of its nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the U.S. Congress approved the plan in 2008. (See ACT, October 2008.)

A critical part of the new approach to India was a nuclear cooperation agreement, signed in 2007, with the United States. In the United States, critics said the agreement and the new policy as a whole undermined the nonproliferation regime and U.S. law by providing benefits to an NPT nonsignatory without requiring sufficient nonproliferation and disarmament measures in return. Advocates said the pact would bring India into the nonproliferation “mainstream,” improve U.S.-Indian relations, and spur trade between the two countries, in part by giving U.S. firms access to the potentially lucrative Indian nuclear market.

Article 17(b) of the liability bill states that the operator of an Indian nuclear facility has a “right of recourse” from the “supplier of the material, equipment or services” in the event of a “nuclear incident” resulting from the supplier’s “willful act or gross negligence.” The government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) currently is the only operator of nuclear power plants in India.

The Congress Party-led coalition government had attempted to change the supplier liability language so the right of recourse would only apply if there was “intent to cause nuclear damage” on the part of the supplier, but opposition complaints led to the removal of that language. International conventions governing nuclear liability, including the CSC, channel liability exclusively to the operator.

The Indian government is not party to any of those conventions. In a 2008 letter to U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said New Delhi intended to “adhere to” the CSC prior to commencing nuclear trade with the United States.

The liability bill also intends to “ensure clarity of liability and the requirement to pay compensation” to those who suffer physical or economic harm “caused by or arising out of a nuclear incident,” according to the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” attached to the text of the bill. In the event of such an incident, compensation is to be awarded by a specially appointed commissioner or by a central government commission in special cases. Article 46 clarifies that additional “proceeding[s]” may be brought against the operator of a nuclear facility under existing Indian law. This article potentially exposes the NPCIL to additional liability, and it is unclear how it would affect foreign suppliers.

There was a heated parliamentary debate on the legislation, including accusations that the bill was intended to shield U.S. corporations at the expense of Indian interests. The debate was influenced by the recent sentencing in India of eight Union Carbide executives who were involved with the 1984 Bhopal industrial accident in which 15,000 people were killed. The sentences were widely seen as lenient, and they drew political attention to U.S. companies involved in potentially hazardous activities in India.

In Aug. 25 remarks before the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, Singh argued that the bill “completes [India’s] journey to end nuclear apartheid, which the world had imposed on India.” The United States and others placed sanctions on India’s nuclear program following the county’s 1974 nuclear test. Singh referred to claims that the bill promoted U.S. interests as being “far from being the truth.”

Indian Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee insisted that the bill is “India-centric” in an interview with India’s Frontline magazine. He also downplayed the possibility that the inclusion of Article 17(b) would discourage foreign suppliers. “I hope I will be able to convince [foreign suppliers] that this will not cause any difficulty” in conducting nuclear commerce with India, he said.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had been critical of the bill, with senior BJP member Jaswant Singh accusing the government of “hustling” the bill through parliament. The BJP initially complained that the bill was too lenient toward suppliers and that the liability cap for operators was too low. However, after the government made several changes to the bill, including a tripling of operator liability, the BJP supported the legislation. In a press release on the party’s Web site, senior BJP leaders accused the government of initially attempting to pass a “suppliers immunity law,” but expressed “satisfaction” with the changes.


The Indian parliament has approved a bill that sets up a mechanism to compensate victims and defines who is liable, and to what extent, in the case of a nuclear accident. The bill makes nuclear supplier firms, in addition to the nuclear facility operator, potentially liable for such an accident.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, Aug. 30 amid intense debate.


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