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Washington’s double standards

Friday 12 March 2004, by CHERIAN *John

UNITED STATES President George W. Bush’s call to "all nations to strengthen the laws and international controls that govern proliferation" and his assertion that "America stands ready to help other governments to draft and enforce the new laws that will help us deal with proliferation" are viewed by many observers as yet another instance of American hypocrisy on the subject.

Delivering a major policy statement at the National Defence University in Washington on February 11 in the wake of the revelations about the unauthorised transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to Iran, Libya and North Korea, Bush issued a tough warning to nuclear proliferators. Pledging to stop proliferating nations in their tracks, he called for a reappraisal of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He said that his administration planned to reduce the number of states permitted to produce nuclear fuel. "These terrible weapons are becoming easier to acquire, build, hide and transport... . We must confront the danger with open eyes and unbending purpose. I’ve made clear to all the policy of this nation: America will not permit the terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most deadly weapons," Bush said in his speech.

Countries that promise not to develop nuclear weapons will be provided help in setting up facilities to produce nuclear power, he said. He urged the international community to work together and enact more stringent controls on the transfer of nuclear technology and material.

THE Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is claiming belatedly that the Bush administration was in the know of the clandestine activities of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the "father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb". Khan had made 44 trips to Dubai in four years. The commercial entrepot in the Gulf is well-known for underhand nuclear dealings. Khan had also made trips to Libya, Malaysia and Iran. U.S. officials say that the Pakistan government was informed about Khan’s clandestine activities only in October last year. The Bush administration’s tunnel vision focussed only on Iraq, despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rubbishing its claims that Saddam Hussein was engaged in a clandestine nuclear weapons programme. The IAEA had consistently come under scathing criticism by leading Bush administration figures such as Under-Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation John Bolton.

The administration has also come out against the recent proposal of the chief of the IAEA, Mohamed El-Baradei, for an international, multilateral organisation to control the production of all nuclear fuel. Such a move, it is believed, would go against the interests of the U.S. Adopting a cooperative stance on the issue would have meant opening up the U.S.’ own sites for inspection by the international agency. The U.S. and the four other declared nuclear states would never give up their monopoly over the production of nuclear weapons.

Besides, there is the problem of the U.S.’ client state - Israel. In the past three years, not once has the Bush administration asked Tel Aviv to cooperate with the IAEA or sign the NPT. Israel is reputed to have the sixth largest nuclear arsenal and a plethora of long-, medium- and short-range missiles to deliver its stock of 200 nuclear warheads.

The international community has not forgotten that it was the Bush administration that scuttled the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Non-nuclear countries had agreed to the extension of the NPT on the premise that the CTBT would be adopted. The Bush administration had also embarked on a grandiose plan to nuclearise outer space under the guise of the National Missile Defence (NMD) programme. Washington has also announced plans to develop and test mini-nuclear weapons. This, according to experts, will trigger another nuclear arms race. Experts are of the opinion that the U.S. is already in material breach of the NPT.

Mohamed El-Baradei said in February that the battle against the spread of nuclear weapons had become more difficult now. He was indirectly blaming the Bush administration for trying to damage the IAEA’s credibility on the issue of Iraq’s nuclear capability. "People are now more cynical when you talk about the possibility of a country having weapons of mass destruction," he said. He did not openly criticise the Bush administration’s double standards on the issue. Strategic affairs experts have said that the U.S. is in anticipatory breach of its security assurance to non-nuclear weapons states that it would not use nuclear weapons against them in return for their concurrence to a renewal and indefinite extension of the NPT.

RECENTLY, George A. Papandreou, Erkki Tuomioja and Laila Frevalds, Foreign Ministers of Greece, Finland and Sweden respectively, called for collective efforts to strengthen international agreements to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In an article they co-authored, the Ministers called on India, Pakistan and Israel to join the NPT. Cuba and Timor-Leste have signed up. After the recent revelations of the shenanigans by Pakistani scientists, international focus now will not be confined to Islamabad but include New Delhi and Tel Aviv, although the Bush administration would prefer that the attention be diverted to only Iran and North Korea. "We urge them (India, Pakistan and Israel) to join the NPT unconditionally... and to place all their nuclear facilities and activities under the provisions of the comprehensive safeguards system of the IAEA," they wrote.

The three Ministers also stressed the importance of nuclear weapons states adhering to their NPT commitments. They said that the "perceptions of a lukewarm attitude" by nuclear weapon states would give rise to security concerns and resentment. They acknowledged that the stance adopted by the nuclear weapon states made the appeal for disarmament less credible. They said that embarking on the development and building of a new generation of nuclear weapons, as the Bush administration proposed to do, would have dangerous repercussions.

El-Baradei has echoed similar views. "Countries that perceive themselves to be vulnerable can be expected to try to redress that vulnerability, and in some cases they will pursue their clandestine weapons programmes," he wrote in a signed article recently. He went on to add that the international community should "abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security - and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their future use". In a- none-too-subtle way, he referred to the Bush administration’s activities in the past three years.

See online : Frontline


in Frontline, volume 21 - Issue 05, February 28 - March 12, 2004.

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