Indian Uranium Enrichment

The nuclear relations between India and Pakistan have always been a victim of historical enmity as both countries share a history of conflicts and border disputes. In these circumstances, the Indo-U.S nuclear deal has been a topic of hot debate in Pakistan as well as in the international strategic community. Owing to the fact that India’s eight out 24 reactors (under the deal) are out of IAEA safeguards, it is likely to disturb deterrence equilibrium in the region because of expected quantitative as well as qualitative advancement of India’s military might.

Two contradictory forces have always engulfed Indian nuclear program including the country’s hegemonic aspiration wherein India is determined to project itself as a major power in the region and its limited uranium stockpiles.

On July 18, 2005, U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a framework for nuclear cooperation. Resultantly, three decades-long sanctions against India in the backdrop of its 1974 nuclear tests came to an end. Subsequently, the final agreement was signed at last on October 10, 2008.

On the international level, the proponents of non-proliferation came forward in defense of Non-Proliferation Regime (NPR). As according to Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala and Daryl G. Kimball of Arms Control Association, “contrary to the claims of its advocates, the deal [Nuclear] fails to bring India further in conformity with the nonproliferation behavior expected of the member states of the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Unlike other countries, India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). It continues to produce fissile material and expand its arsenals.”

In addition, according to George Perkovich, “The U.S-India nuclear deal and its transformation into the NSG-India nuclear deal involved making and unmaking international rules. By exempting India from rules, the deal amounted to selective non-enforcement…by ignoring moratorium route, the U.S and India further undermined the cause of nonproliferation…and it enables India immediately to import fuel and sign reactor construction contracts with foreign suppliers.”

In 2005, Indian nuclear reactors were on the brink of collapse owing to the insufficient amount of uranium stockpiles. However, because of NSG waiver granted to India for successful Indo-U.S nuclear deal, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pronounced a deal, wherein Canada’s Cameco Corporation will supply India with 3,000 metric tonnes of Uranium over the next five years. Interestingly, the deal comes 45 years after Canada officially banned all exports of uranium to India in 1974, following India’s “Smiling Buddha” nuclear test.

Moreover, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sealed a civil nuclear deal to sell uranium to India as well. In a similar vein, Kazakhstan, recently, signed an agreement with India to supply India with 5,000 tonnes of uranium over the next five years.

In this way, Indo-U.S nuclear deal have provided India with surplus uranium that could easily be converted for military usage that would surely disturb strategic equilibrium in Asia, specially South Asia. Under the Nuclear Deal, India would also be eligible to buy U.S. dual-use nuclear technology, including materials and equipment that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium, potentially creating the material for nuclear bombs.

The India-US nuclear deal is very significant to Beijing because it is perceived as a tactic of the US grand strategy to contain China’s rise. Pakistan’s nuclear policy has always been India-centric since beginning. As there are no sufficient safeguards that halt any possible uranium diversion for military purposes and if India went for the advancement of its nuclear weapons either quantitatively or qualitatively, then Pakistan would likely follow the path, consequently, aggravating nuclear arms race in the region.