Congress must not approve Indo-American nuclear deal, say Nobel laureates

"In its present form, deal endangers U.S. non-proliferation goals"

Such ad-hoc bilateral deals will undercut U.S. and world securityGrowth of civilian nuke power increases amount of fissionable material"Do not treat nuclear weapons as militarily useful, politically salient"

Washington: Terming the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear technology deal as a "formula for destroying American non-proliferation goals," 37 Nobel laureates urged the U.S. Congress not to approve the deal "in its current form."

"The recent nuclear agreement with India weakens the existing non-proliferation regime without providing an acceptable substitute. Since nothing is more important to the U.S. security than blocking further proliferation and possible use of nuclear weapons, the lawmakers should withhold their seal of approval until the deal can be rectified," they wrote in a letter, supported by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

"While there are a hundred different areas in which the United States and India could, and should, establish closer ties, this nuclear agreement isn't it," the letter, released at a press conference on Wednesday, said.

The laureates, including Kenneth Joseph Arrow (Economics, 1972), Paul Christian Lauterbur (Medicine, 2003), Alfred Goodman Gilman (Medicine, 1994), Roger Guillemin (Medicine, 1977) and Donald A. Glaser (Physics, 1960), urged the lawmakers to vote against the "enabling legislation" as they claimed bilateral ad-hoc agreements such as the one just announced with India undercut U.S. and world security.

"The Non-Proliferation Treaty is crumbling and needs to be replaced with a new international framework, one that reflects dramatic changes that have occurred during the 30 years since the treaty was written," they wrote.The signatories declared that they "strongly endorse actions that can build stronger ties between India and the U.S. in trade and research and that worldwide expansion of civilian nuclear power has the potential to provide electricity without increasing carbon emissions." They, however, noted that the rapid growth of civilian nuclear power would increase the amount of fissionable material stored worldwide, and the number of nuclear fuel production facilities that could be used to build nuclear weapons.

Noting that most of the world's nuclear weapons are a legacy of the Cold War and held by the U.S. and Russia, they said America cannot continue to treat nuclear weapons as "militarily useful and politically salient while expecting to stop global nuclear proliferation." "The Indian nuclear deal is just one symptom of a bigger problem," they said.

After agreeing to a nuclear deal with India in March 2006, President George Bush claimed that it would bring India at least part way into the fold of the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, the scientists strongly disagreed.

Addressing the press conference after releasing the Nobel laureates' letter, Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center and Leonard Weiss, former staff director of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, said: "The Bush administration took the decision to give India a benevolent deal without doing any homework and based on assumptions. Hence, it suffers from downside risks," they said, adding that if India wanted civilian nuclear energy, "it has to agree to a moratorium on future testing and enter the fissile material cut-off treaty." UNI