Indo-US civil nuclear deal: Fear of Arm race in Asia

by Dr. Abida Rafiq
THE India-US civil nuclear deal, also known as the “123 Agreement,” was signed in 2008 and aimed to increase cooperation between the two countries in the area of civil nuclear energy. The agreement allowed India, which had been under nuclear-related sanctions since 1974, to participate in global nuclear trade and access technology and fuel for its civilian nuclear program. In exchange, India agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities, allow international inspections of its civil nuclear programme and maintain its voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing. The deal was a significant milestone in the relationship between India and the US, which had been strained in the past due to India’s nuclear program. It also marked a departure from the US policy of denying nuclear technology to countries that were not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The cooperation between India and the US under the civil nuclear deal has led to the establishment of joint ventures in the nuclear energy sector, increased trade in nuclear components and technology and cooperation on nuclear safety and security. Overall, the civil nuclear deal has been seen as a significant step in strengthening the strategic partnership between India and the US and a recognition of India’s growing economic and strategic importance on the global stage. The deal was significant as it signaled the US recognition of India as a responsible nuclear power and ended India’s nuclear isolation, allowing it to enter the international nuclear trade. The deal also had significant implications for Pakistan which viewed the deal as a discriminatory measure that gave India preferential treatment, allowing it access to technology and fuel while Pakistan was left out of the nuclear trade due to its status as a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan also saw the deal as a threat to its own security, as it believed that India’s access to nuclear technology could lead to a nuclear arms race in South Asia. The deal also raised concerns in Pakistan with regard to the US’s strategic alignment with India, as it was seen as a move to counterbalance China’s rising influence in the region. Pakistan has traditionally been an ally of the US and was concerned that the deal signaled a shift in US policy towards India at expense of Pakistan. In response to the India-US Civil Nuclear Deal, Pakistan sought to develop its own nuclear energy program and began negotiations with China for the construction of nuclear reactors. Pakistan also called for a similar deal with the US and other nuclear powers, arguing that it should not be left out of the international nuclear trade due to its status as a non-NPT signatory. The implications of this deal for Pakistan were that it created a regional power imbalance. Pakistan, which is India’s arch-rival, was concerned that India’s access to nuclear fuel and technology could give it an advantage in developing its nuclear program. This could lead to a nuclear arms race in the region which could destabilize the entire South Asian region. Overall, the India-US Civil Nuclear Deal had significant implications for Pakistan’s nuclear program and its strategic position in the region. While the deal was seen as a positive development for India, it raised concerns in Pakistan with regard to its own security and its relationship with the US. —The writer is Researcher, CISS AJK. Email:

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir