Excerpts from Leventhal-Andersen Debate

(prepared by Nuclear Control Institute)


Impact on US-Pakistan Relations and the Nonproliferation Regime


Castiel:  ….Could the deal hurt US relations with Pakistan?


Leventhal: Well, Pakistan surely wants what India is getting, and made an appeal to President Bush.  And President Bush said, “Thanks but no thanks. We’re not prepared to do that,” citing Pakistan’s proliferation behavior—the A.Q Khan network, and so forth.  The likelihood is Pakistan will turn to China, and China will seek to make an exception for Pakistan, just like the US made an exception for India.


And what they’re making an exception to is (an international) regime, so called---regime is perhaps the wrong word because it is not exactly stolid---but there is a set of rules out there that basically say you do not export nuclear technology to countries that refuse to put all of their facilities---all of their facilities---not two-thirds of their facilities, but all of their facilities under safeguards.  And the reason for that is obvious.  If you have most facilities under safeguards and a few that are not, the few that are not will be applied to weapons-making. And it doesn’t take a lot to make a large nuclear weapons program.  The major nuclear weapons states recognized by the NPT have relatively few (and relatively small) reactors producing weapons plutonium.  And most of them have frozen production of plutonium. 


India is going to have nuclear power plants---thousand megawatt reactors that produce prodigious amounts of plutonium available for weapons-making.


This is not an abomination.  This is an atrocity.  And I call it an atrocity because we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  The bathwater is sort of the bad blood, the bad feelings between India and the United States over decades because of India’s nuclear policy.  So we’re going to say, OK, we’re going to change things around.  We’re going to normalize relations by not letting old nuclear disputes stand in the way. 


But we’re tossing the baby out.  The baby is the nonproliferation regime.  Other countries are watching.  Iran is watching.  North Korea is watching.  Their cases are somewhat different, but they’re watching.  And what they see---the large picture is that the US is not going to stand up to them if they really go down the India path---if they go ahead and design, build and eventually test (nuclear weapons), we’re going to give way, and that makes for a very dangerous world.


Andersen:  Let me start with that last comment Paul had made about other countries such as North Korea and Iran looking at this and getting heart that somehow the US will give in to them.  I totally disagree.  Countries develop nuclear weapons for their own geo-strategic reasons.  I have talked to my friends in the government and I asked, “Do you find any indications that the Iran is and the North Koreans are looking at what India has done as a sign that they can do the same, and they said ‘Absolutely not.’”  Countries do not develop nuclear weapons because of what India is doing.  They develop nuclear weapons because of their own geo-strategic reasons.  North Korea and Iran—I have seen nothing—That is one of the weakest arguments of ones who are opposing this deal.  There are strong arguments, but that is not one of them.


On the other thing---the Pakistan-India relationship---it is curious that the Pakistanis have been remarkably restrained on what’s happened---remarkably restrained.  I happen to know there is something of a debate at the highest levels of the Pakistani government.  Some actually see it as an advantage because it creates a middle ground of states that have not signed the NPT and yet have nuclear weapons, and being able to work out a deal similar to this one.  Their hope.is that they can march right behind India.  I’m not sure they can because they do, as Paul mentioned, have to get over A.Q. Kahn, which is a difficult thing to get over… He has sold nuclear technology over two decades to North Korea and others, and I’m not sure his network has been cleaned up yet.  My guess is that it probably isn’t.  But when all is aid and done, will this set off a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan?  I seriously doubt it.


Castiel:  What about India and China, as Paul Leventhal also suggested?


Andersen: I doubt that even more so.  Here I have seen the Chinese comments.  In fact, I have spoken at Hopkins with some Chinese military strategists who came, and they thought the deal was a good thing because at least it put a large part of the Indian facilities under safeguards---the IAEA safeguards---so no, I don’t see that.  The Chinese key strategic problem is not to the south but to the east.  That  is where the Chinese are focusing their efforts, not to the south. . . .



What if India agreed to a fissile cutoff?


Castiel: …Do you think Congress is liable to introduce changes short of renegotiating the deal that could improve it and make it more palatable to skeptics?


Andersen:  Yes, I think there’s a possibility, but if it goes too far, India won’t accept it.  One thing---I had a long lunch with a person who I know is a friend of both Paul’s and mine who is against the deal, but whose idea---one I could buy that India might accept.---and that is, if India and the US together could agree to push for a fissile fuel cutoff treaty that would affect everyone---it wouldn’t be just India, it wouldn’t be just the US---but everyone would subscribe to that.  And I think the Indians might accept that, but I’m not sure the US would.


Leventhal:  I’d like to respond to that, if I could.  Well, understand that the fissile cutoff treaty that is proposed is not a true fissile cutoff treaty.  In fact, it is a fissile production agreement because what it cuts off is the further production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium outside of safeguards, but it does not contemplate cutting off production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium under safeguards for purportedly civilian applications.


The problem with that concept is that unless you cut off (all) further production of separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium, you are feeding into the civilian sector material that can be rapidly converted to military applications.  And in regions that are unstable,  where neighbors view each other with suspicion, if not outright hatred---and you see in, by the way, in East Asia, where Japan is about to launch an enormous civilian plutonium production program, that in no way assuages the concerns of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, the two Koreas.  So the problem is that that’s not enough (cut off of military plutonium only).  What you need is an understanding that because  plutonium and highly enriched uranium are not essential civilian fuels, they should be cut off entirely.  And that’s considered a very radical proposal because it doesn’t appear to have any political legs. ElBaradei himself suggested that there be at least a five-year moratorium (on all plutonium and highly enriched uranium production), but no one paid any attention to it. What they paid attention to was his idea of internationalizing the (nuclear) fuel cycle.


So I see the world in a very dangerous state right now, and the India agreement exacerbates all the dangerous trends—further production of fissile material, much of it dedicated to weapons; other (material) under safeguards, but safeguards cannot cope, really, with a situation where under changing circumstances nations will abort and proceed down the proliferation path.  We have to get away from separated plutonium.  We have to get away from highly enriched uranium.  This agreement goes in exactly the opposite direction.


Consequences if the deal does not go through?


Castiel:  Will there be adverse consequences if the deal does not go through?


Andersen: In the short term, yes.  In the long term, no.  I think the compulsions that are driving the two countries together are there whatever happens to the agreement.  I think there might be a short-term blip, and it might even adversely affect the coalition government that is run by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh because he is against the Indian opponents of the deal.  The Indian opponents predict just the reverse arguments.  Oh yes, we’re putting ourselves under American tutelage and foreign policy.  We’re restricting ourselves the right to produce in a major way---


Castiel: Basically restriction where Paul Leventhal sees an opening—


Andersen:  Yes, basically the reverse.  The argument on the other side is that basically India is putting itself in a situation where its arms are being held behind its back, as it were, when it comes to future strategic problems they might face specifically with China.  Whatever, I think the compulsions that are driving the two countries together will continue to do so whatever happens to the agreement.  If this goes down the tube, there will be a short-term problem, yes.


Leventhal: May I respond to that, because if the relationship will not be permanently soured if the nuclear deal goes down, then why couldn’t we have worked on improving and building US-India relations which were going in the same direction so well without a nuclear agreement?  Why do we need a nuclear agreement to bring about this messianic age that we’re going to have with India if we did not need it in the first place?


Castiel: That’s a very good question


Andersen:  I totally agree with you that we could do without that.  It’s a very good question.  But what this deal tried to do is take away the nuclear issue which has always been such a sour issue between the two countries .  It moves the relationship faster than it would have been otherwise, and it took what had been a problem in the side pocket for a long time out of it and removed it as an issue.  Which is what the Secretary (of State) has mentioned in her talk, which is absolutely true.


Leventhal:  Well if it doesn’t go through, then I think it will be better for both countries.  But there will be a blip because there will be hard feelings on both sides over it not going through.  But I do feel India-US relations are much better prospectively without a nuclear deal that can turn sour---could turn sour in future years and exacerbate relations between the US and India.  I think it is a potential irritant, and beyond being just an irritant, it could lead to some really terrible things happening in the world.