On September 2, 2008, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman released answers to questions for the record submitted to the State Department in October 2007. These answers were previously not released by State Department request. The Arms Control Association held a press conference at the Carnegie Endowment's Washington office on September 2 to discuss some of the issues (http://www.armscontrol.org/node/3336).
This analysis compares U.S. law, the draft U.S.-India nuclear cooperation agreement, the answers to the questions for the record and Indian official statements on the potential consequences of another Indian nuclear weapons test on U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. The answers to the questions for the record reveal gaps in U.S. and Indian interpretations.
Given these gaps, it is imperative that the Nuclear Suppliers Group clearly rule out the continuation of nuclear supply to India in the event of an Indian nuclear weapon test, as it considers a potential exemption to its guidelines for nuclear trade with India this week. Half measures, such as required consultations, should be rejected.
The NSG should consider other conditions as well, including a ban on the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology (related to uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing). This analysis does not cover that issue, but the answers to the questions for the record indicate that the U.S. has categorically rejected such transfers. The Nuclear Suppliers Group should follow the U.S. lead here. As long as India is producing fissile material for nuclear weapons, it will be impossible to ensure that cooperation in this area could not help its weapons program. IAEA safeguards do not cover technology, and there are no measures to prevent the transfer of knowledge.
Other conditions, such as India signing the CTBT and halting fissile material production for weapons, are highly desirable and should be pursued, but at a bare minimum, a potential NSG exemption must include a cutoff for tests and a prohibition on sensitive nuclear technology transfers.
Sharon Squassoni is senior associate in the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.