The downside to the deal with India

Last week, President Bush visited Southeast Asia, more specifically India and Pakistan. Despite the lack of press coverage for his jaunt, a major international breakthrough occurred as Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tentatively agreed to a deal regarding nuclear power in India.

On the surface, agreeing to this deal appears to have been a good move. However, further inspection reveals this compromise may lead to greater problems in the long run.

The agreement would allow inspectors to visit 14 of the 22 Indian nuclear reactors and, in turn, ensure that they are solely producing commercial nuclear energy and not weapons-grade plutonium. In turn, American businesses would be allowed to sell India additional nuclear reactors and aid them in setting up a nuclear grid that could power the entire country.

The problem with such a quid pro quo is that eight of the 22 reactors would not be classified as civilian, freeing them from international safeguards regarding the creation of nuclear weaponry. If that wasn’t bad enough, it flies directly in the face of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that was designed to stop the spread of nukes outside of the “Big 5” nuclear powers.

The NPT was signed by 43 nations in 1970, and since then, 147 additional nations have agreed to stop any nation that attempts to build up a nuclear arsenal. India never signed this treaty, and in fact, it has been pushing for nuclear weapons since the implementation of Smiling Buddha in 1974. It officially became a nuclear power in 1998, the same year as its neighbor Pakistan. However, the United States is a charter member of the NPT and has used violations of the NPT as grounds for war in certain cases (i.e. Iraq).

Obviously, India would have these weapons regardless of any action taken by the United States, as would Pakistan. The catch is that America is doing the world a disservice by ignoring the treaty. It sets a bad example for all the countries, such as Japan, Brazil and even Canada, which could have developed nukes if they so desired, but instead played by the rules, so they would be able to receive technology for cheap commercial nuclear power from other countries.

By that same token, when Bush visited Islamabad, Pakistan desired the same sort of deal he offered India. Bush blew them off. While such a move is understandable to an extent, especially considering Pakistan’s nasty habit of selling technology to countries that hate us, doing so in such a seemingly off-the-cuff manner is certain to annoy a “pivotal” ally on the War on Terror.

Of course, India isn’t another North Korea or Iran and shouldn’t be treated as such. At least the compromise limits India to eight reactors. Also, we agree with the idea that the United States and India should have closer relations, seeing as they are the two largest democracies in the world. A burgeoning American-Indian alliance could serve as a much-needed counterweight to China in that part of the world.

But the NPT shouldn’t just be brushed away with a dismissive hand wave in such a blatant geopolitical maneuver.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.