Thursday, March 02, 2006

Legitimizing The Illegitimate

George Bush has just completed a landmark deal with India to sell that nation American nuclear knowhow, fuel and equipment. On the face of it, while imperfect, it is a good deal as far as India's non-proliferation is concerned and I welcome that aspect of it. It should ensure that India rejoins the international nuclear community after 30 years in the wilderness and that at long last it's civilian (not military) nuclear program will be open to IAEA inspectors. On that very basis, it has been welcomed by Mohammed el Baradei. After all, his sole concern is nuclear proliferation and he obviously still hopes that India will eventually sign the NPT. To be honest, that should have been the primary precondition of this deal all along, but instead Bush made it conditional on India's backing US calls to refer Iran to the Security Council.

However, India has always called the NPT "discriminatory" and refused to have anything to do with it and without a huge carrot like this deal could have been are unlikely to join. That means that any time they feel like it they can rescind this deal and kick inspectors out without any repercussions except loss of the deal itself. If the aren't members of the NPT then there can be no IAEA referral to the UN Security Council, for instance. John Bolton has given the Bush administrations blessing to that possibility by telling the world that, unlike Iran which is an NPT signator, India and Pakistan didn't sign the NPT and therefore undertook any and all nuclear research and development "legitimately". As a byblow, Bolton thus legitimized the - unmentioned -arsenals of both Israel and North Korea, neither of which are NPT members (although North Korea was a member until 2003 so it's "get out of jail free" card is debatable.)

While strengthening the IAEA's authority with one nation, the Bush administration has undermined it with every other country in order to justify the India deal. Currently, only Cuba, Pakistan, North Korea, India and Israel are NOT NPT members. Bolton's words may well cause a few more drop outs in the months and years to come. His distrust of international treaties and agreements would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A 1998 Security Council resolution (outwith the NPT's provisions) called on India and Pakistan to stop all nuclear development programs immediately and urged other states to stop selling either country equipment that could be used in atomic arms. This is the Bush administrations sidestep of that resolution - to declare what they would like the law to be rather than adhere to the actual law.

I'm fairly sure El Baradei isn't at all as happy with the consequences of Bush's deal, as legitimized by John Bolton, as he is with the prospect of inspections of the 14 reactors India has declared to be civilian. Would anyone out there in the world's press like to ask?