Predicted NSS-4 outcome: Modi gave much, India (once again) got stiffed

The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington has ended in Washington. While some of the apprehensions expressed in a previous post on this subject have been borne out, some of PM Modi’s commitments could become problematic depending on how exactly India follows through on them.

The most damaging turn of events was US President Obama’s re-hyphenation of India and Pakistan and, much worse, implicitly reaffirming US’ longstanding nonproliferation policy objective of “cap, freeze, rollback” of nuclear weapons capabilities in South Asia. “We need to see progress in Pakistan and India [to] make sure”, he demanded, somewhat magisterially, “that as they develop military doctrines that they are not continually moving in the wrong direction” as regards expanding “nuclear arsenals” “especially those with small tactical nuclear weapons that could be at greater risk of theft.”

Modi responded, not by asking Obama to stop lecturing and defining the nuclear deterrence requirements of other countries but to get going with drastic reductions of US and P-5 nuclear weapons inventories but, with Washington’s soft-pedaling of Pakistan-sourced terrorism in mind, carping about treating terrorism as “someone else’s problem and that ‘his’ terrorist is not ‘my’ terrorist… All States must completely abide by their international obligations.”

In light of the US government’s approach and attitude some of the six commitments Modi voiced at the summit could create trouble for India. These commitments are:

1) India’s continuing to accord a high national priority to nuclear security through strong institutional framework, independent regulatory agency and trained and specialised manpower, to include physical and cyber barriers, technological approaches, setting up a facility for medical grade ‘Moly-99’ using low enriched Uranium and using vitrified forms of vulnerable radioisotopes such as Ceasium-137.
2) India will counter nuclear smuggling and strengthen the national detection architecture for nuclear and radioactive material, with a dedicated counter-nuclear smuggling team.
3) India will support IAEA’s central role in nuclear security by a further contribution of $1 million to the nuclear security fund and a workshop to be held in India with IAEA experts on International Physical Protection Assessment Service (IPPAS).
4) India will join trilateral initiative of NSS chairs (US, South Korea, Netherlands) to oversee the implementation in subscribing states of measures to strengthen nuclear security.
5) India will also join three gift baskets for this summit in priority areas of countering nuclear smuggling, nuclear security contact group in Vienna, and sharing of best practices through Centres of Excellence such as India’s own.
6) India will host a meeting of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in 2017 to complement the international conference on countering nuclear smuggling planned with Interpol. The nuclear security architecture in the country is to be strengthened and participate in strengthening security architecture at the global level.

For example, items #3,4,5 & 6 all involve international/multilateral/IAEA arrangements which could be the tool used by the US in particular and the P-5 states generally to penetrate the secret parts of the nuclear establishment under cover of progressing and providing technical “expert” advise for increasing the security and protection of dangerous materials. It could be used to suborn Indian participants with the aim ultimately of subverting the Indian weapons program, wherewithal, and capabilities. By now most countries have got the hang of a basic feature of Indian reality: Indians, by and large, are “bikaoo” (purchasable) — all that needs determining is their price.

Further, the Indian side, as per a statement released to the media that seems to have been drafted without any apparent awareness of where the country’s strategic and national security interests actually lie, crowed about India’s export controls list and guidelines being harmonized with those of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and how it “looks forward” to strengthening its contribution to shared non-proliferation objectives through membership of the export controls regimes. This commitment, mind you, is despite India’s being prevented from getting anywhere within smelling distance of membership in NSG, and which membership will obtain once Pakistan too (shepherded by China) gains entry into it.

To further emphasize its “good boy” status, and hammer a few more nails into its own nuclear coffin, India at NSS-4 also pointedly referred to its enacting the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems Act, 2005, giving effect, inter alia, to India’s obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.

So ends another of Modi’s forays into the outside world.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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9 Responses to Predicted NSS-4 outcome: Modi gave much, India (once again) got stiffed

  1. MS says:

    We were expecting this, even though hoping otherwise. I am impressed by how President Xi looks so calm-no major gesturing of hands or great words, but achieves so much.

    He is taken so seriously. We are just happy singing the tune of terrorism, India could sign those foundation agreements and then forever have the entitlement (and also the need) to talk about terrorism…interesting column by Pratap Mehta in Indian express on how India could lose it by signing those agreements.

    If we are just happy seeing the photos with the powerful people, we are just missing the great chance of becoming rich as a nation.

    By the way, India will not succeed in preventing Pak from entering NSG, and neither am I losing any sleep over it. I want to see us develop quickly and steadily without becoming miltary allies of any one. See what happened to Philipines..did anyone stop China from taking the island away?

    India should embrace the great American people by exporting world class goods and services to them.

    • Sam says:

      Since India is not a member of NSG it can’t do much to prevent Pak. I read a report that China wants to stop India from entering NSG unless India and Pak both enter at the same time. If India enters then I believe we can do much to prevent Pak like the Italians did last time to us.

  2. India has to work within the limited international policy space left for India to maintain sovereign ability to develop independent nuclear doctrines yet India has to appear as a safe investment destination for the rest of the world. I think this was a major step ahead for India in a multilateral fora.

    Some points for your consideration.
    – India does not work adequately towards deflating the arms race, which it must if it wants to project itself as a destination of growth. Regional prosperity is premised on peaceful co-existence.
    – U.S. officials find India’s nuclear security apparatus lower than that of Pakistan and Russia. In 2008, security infrastructure of BARC was found by U.S. experts to be ‘low key’.
    – India is pursuing covert weapons grade nuclear technology missions and has been doing so in Chitradurga and Khudapura sites, about which not much clarity is there. Although it is allegedly believed that this is an attempt by India to acquire thermonuclear weapons, which may set off another round of arms race.
    – India does not have a robust cyber security architecture.

    Given these major deficiencies, I think India got a better deal.

  3. – India does not work adequately towards deflating the arms race, which it must if it wants to project itself as a destination of growth. Regional prosperity is premised on peaceful co-existence.
    – U.S. officials find India’s nuclear security apparatus lower than that of Pakistan and Russia. In 2008, security infrastructure of BARC was found by U.S. experts to be ‘low key’.
    – India is pursuing covert weapons grade nuclear technology missions and has been doing so in Chitradurga and Khudapura sites, about which not much clarity is there. Although it is allegedly believed that this is an attempt by India to acquire thermonuclear weapons, which may set off another round of arms race.

    Given these deficiencies and the limited international policy space for India, I think India got a much better deal

  4. Abhishek Singh says:

    Sir,
    I don’t know much but the concerns you are raising are and have always been critical around N security. These concerns should be directly addressed to the PM with invitation to similar colleagues and Govt. stakeholders and N-Policy decision makers in a closed door debate session. This so as to make the PM understand the long term impact of the direction we are going in. If not this PM now, then which PM and when?

  5. MS says:

    The other thing-our prime minister is so intelligent, courageous leader that he is the one could pull it off. Look around, and you will see only pliable politicians. At this very moment, I take pause and appreciate Mr Karnad for exhibiting courage, sharp intellect and demonstrating the understanding of affairs, our strategic and tactical needs, and doing it in writing this piece and the rest.

    Also, though it is politically incorrect to say, but I must-India should not get bogged down by Pakistan, but use the international stage to gather steam in our march towards development. Pakistani leaders are intelligent enough to negotiate NSG entry. We should not worry about this, I guess. We have to become a leader in global economy and military affairs.

  6. Shaurya says:

    OK, Since now the equal-equal rant is over from the US, can Mr. Modi now order the Agni V test?

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