U.S. India Nuclear Deal

Grace Kennedy
March 9, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Construction site of the Koodankulam, India Nuclear Power Plant (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On July 18 2005, U.S. President George Bush and India Prime Minister Manmohan issued a joint statement laying the ground for boundaries of nuclear trade between the U.S. and India. [1] This joint statement agreement was the start of a fundamental change of the U.S. and India relations, especially pertaining to nuclear technology and weaponry. For three decades, the U.S. isolated India in refusing nuclear cooperation due to India's history with nuclear tests. [1] India first established their Atomic Energy Commission in 1948. [1] Today, their biggest nuclear power plant is located in Kudankulam as seen in Fig 1. Currently Units 1 and 2 are working, but they started construction on Units 3 and 4 at the beginning of 2017. When India first began their nuclear venture, they turned to the United Kingdom for the design and enriched uranium fuel for its first nuclear reactor, Apsara. [1] Canada also supplied India with their CIRUS reactor, with help from the U.S. from providing heavy water. Some of the technology provided by multiple countries combined together to contribute to the production and separating of the plutonium used in India's 1974 nuclear weapons test. [1] Due to this test and India's refusal to be a part of the Non-proliferation Treaty, they have been kept outside the trade of nuclear materials until 2005. [1] Apart from their nuclear weapons test and refusal to be a part of the NPT, the U.S. decided to go ahead with the deal because India has never sought to undermine the non-proliferation regime by spreading nuclear weapons, material, or technology; they just disagree with the creation of two classes of states- nuclear and non- nuclear. [2]

Overview and Implications of Deal

There are a lot of reasons why the U.S. decided to create this deal with India, but two main ones. First, a large number of U.S. corporations are expected to benefit from the reactor and fuel supply deals, which may also open up large economic relations. [2] India is a rapidly growing democracy with a fruitful economic market to share with countries willing to trade nuclear supplies. [3] Along with economic ventures, the U.S. is trying to cement a relationship with India in order to counterbalance China. [2] The Bush Administration wanted to boost India's military and economic capability in order to stop China from taking over South Asian territories and balance China's relationship with Pakistan. [2] The U.S. recognized that India is a responsible nuclear weapons state with a doctrine of no first use. [2] Plus, India should be elevated in international rank and drawn into a closer relationship with the U.S. [3] Here are the main points of the Nuclear Deal:

Arguments against the deal believe that it granted India the right to reprocess for military purposes, the spent fuel from the remaining eight reactors that are not designed as civilian. [3] Memories of India extracting plutonium from its CIRUS reactor for its 1974 nuclear explosion. [3] India has also not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty because they do not have confidence in its thermonuclear weapon capability without more tests. [3] Also, under the Hyde Act the U.S. can stop all nuclear exports if India were to conduct a nuclear test. However, there is nothing within the agreement that states that India can't conduct the test in the first place. [3]

Impacts on Pakistan

India and Pakistan have a very long and difficult relationship. The deal made between the U.S. and India was paramount, but also made Pakistan angry to be left out. Pakistan demanded the same deal from the U.S. once the joint statement between Bush and Manmohan was issues. [1] Pakistan obtained their first nuclear reactor from the U.S. as part of the Atoms for Peace Program. Their first reactor was built by Canada in 1972 following in India's footsteps. [1] But after India conducted their first nuclear weapons test in 1974, Pakistan felt that in order to protect their national security they must build up their nuclear weapons program. A.Q. Khan was able to acquire centrifuge technology and Pakistan succeeded in enriching uranium at its Kahuta centrifuge facility in 1982. [1] They conducted their first nuclear weapons test in 1998. [1] After Pakistan heard of the deal, their Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, stated "nuclear nonproliferation and strategic stability in South Asia will be possible when the U.S. fulfills the needs of both Pakistan and India for civil nuclear technology on an equal basis." [1,4]

China plans to supply Pakistan with two nuclear reactors at the Chashma site which will be a clear violation of the NSG guidelines to not supply nuclear transfers to countries that are not a part of the NPT or do not adhere to international safeguards on their nuclear program. [4] The U.S. cannot trust Pakistan from not trading with North Korea, Iran, and Libya, since it has previous records of doing so. [4] It is no surprise that Pakistan is angry at the U.S. for signing this deal, but how could Pakistan create such a deal with the U.S.?

The NSG should consider establishing a criteria under which nuclear cooperation could be made available to the remaining two states who haven't signed the NPT. [3] The right criteria could motivate Pakistan to take definitive steps that are within the U.S.'s interests. These criteria should be those that India would have met before before the nuclear deal was made, such as a stable economy, international nuclear safeguards, and promises to split civilian and military nuclear reactors. [3]

© Grace Kennedy. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] Z. Mian et al., "Fissile Materials in South Asia and the Implications of US-India Nuclear Deal," Science and Global Security 14, 117 (2006).

[2] T. V. Paul and M. Shankar, "Why the US-India Accord Is a Good Deal," Survival 49, No. 4, 111 (2007).

[3] G. Perkovich, "Global Implications of the U.S.-India Deal," Daedalus 139, No. 1, 20 (Winter 2010).

[4] H. V. Pant, "The Pakistan Thorn in China-India-U.S. Relations," Wash. Quart. 35, No. 1, 83, (2012).