Outside editorial: Double standard with India's nuclear program hurts U.S. credibility

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More than a year after the Bush administration reached an agreement to undo U.S. restrictions on India's nuclear program, negotiators have worked out the details. But those details don't make this ill-considered and disastrously timed deal any better.

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Until last year, federal law barred U.S. sales of nuclear fuel or technology to India or any other country that refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. India tested its first nuclear weapon in 1998, and is now believed to have scores of them.

After the two countries struck their agreement, Congress passed a law that would allow the United States to sell nuclear technology and fuel for civilian purposes to India, but would require a cutoff if India conducted another nuclear test. The deal's details, however, say the United States could help India find other sources of fuel.

It's true that U.S. nuclear aid would strengthen ties with India and promote its development. Over time, it would curb India's fossil-fuel use and output of greenhouse gases. But the administration erred in not insisting on limits on India's military nuclear program in return for the civilian aid.

Meanwhile, the United States is still struggling to round up enough international support to shut down the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. There's no mistaking India, a democracy and U.S. economic partner, for either of those rogue nations. But applying one set of rules to friends and another to foes will undermine the U.S. effort to crack down on Iran and North Korea. And it will encourage other countries to launch their own programs.



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