International Security Studies
The Shifting Calculus of Nuclear Danger and Proliferation in South Asia
This meeting, jointly sponsored by the Center's Division of International Security Studies and Asia Program and by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, was another in the ongoing Nonproliferation Forum series.
Krepon's primary focus was on the implications of the U.S.-Indian nuclear agreement, which the Bush administration concluded with the New Delhi government and is currently pending before the Congress. He described the agreement as a "geostrategic bet" that the Bush administration believes will yield greater dividends in terms of cooperation with India than its downside for nuclear proliferation. Calling the agreement a "detour" from U.S. nonproliferation objectives, Krepon questioned the assumptions about the U.S.-Indian relationship underlying the accord.
Broad bipartisan support exists for the expansion and acceleration of U.S.-Indian cooperation across a broad range of areas, including defense and space cooperation, public health, agriculture, trade, investment, and non-nuclear energy generation. Yet the crux issue, according to Krepon, is whether nuclear energy, which has now become the centerpiece of the bilateral relationship, should have been added as an area of cooperation, given India's status as a nuclear weapons state outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime.
Krepon argued that Congress should carefully examine the key assumption underlying the rationale for the agreement – that India would refrain from geostrategic cooperation with the United States (most notably, in the U.S.-led "global war on terrorism) in the absence of a nuclear accord. He observed that India is a traditional great power that will continue to make decisions based on its own national security interests, and went on to argue that those U.S. officials and analysts promoting the agreement on geostrategic grounds will be disappointed when the New Delhi government most probably refuses to align with the United States in containing China and Iran.
In Krepon's view, if the geostrategic benefits of the nuclear agreement are unlikely to be realized, its negative implications for nonproliferation could be considerable. Under its terms, those Indian nuclear reactors not subject to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards could permit an estimated fivefold increase in the number of Indian nuclear weapons. Contrary to the optimism of the accord's proponents, Krepon questioned whether a singular exception to the rules governing nuclear commerce can be made for India without the unraveling of the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier Group's consensus system in which members have committed to put nonproliferation controls over profit.