Let’s Hear It for New Zealand
Published: August 31, 2008
If you are feeling anxious — and you should be — about the world’s appetite for nuclear weapons, there is a bit of good news. More countries than we ever expected are refusing to be pressured by the United States and India to approve an ill-conceived nuclear deal.
For 30 years, ever since India used its civilian nuclear program to produce a bomb, the world has been banned from selling nuclear technology to India. Three years ago, President Bush agreed, with far too few conditions, to break that ban and sell India reactors and fuel.
The White House argued that India is an important democracy and shrugged off critics who said that breaking the rules would make it even harder to pressure Iran and others to abandon their nuclear ambitions.
The administration — and India’s high-paid lobbyists — managed to persuade Congress to give preliminary approval to the deal. But before it can go forward, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (which sets rules for nuclear trade) must also agree.
At a meeting this month, more than 20 governments delayed approval, raising serious questions and insisting on sound conditions. They insisted that there can be no sale to India of technology to make more nuclear fuel — usable for a reactor or a bomb — and that suppliers halt all trade if India tests another weapon. And they insisted that India accept the most rigorous possible international monitoring of its civilian nuclear facilities.
We hope this admirable band — led by New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland — continues to stand firm when the nuclear group meets again this week.
Mr. Bush and his team were so eager for a foreign policy success that they gave away the store. They extracted no promise from India to stop producing bomb-making material. No promise not to expand its arsenal. And no promise not to resume nuclear testing.
When Congress gave its approval it wrote in the many of the same conditions that New Zealand and others are insisting on. That has not stopped the administration from insisting on more generosity from the suppliers group. If it gets its way, India could end up buying technology from Russia, France and other less exacting sellers while bypassing the United States. Add that to the list of what is deeply wrong with this deal.