Thursday, December 31, 2009

India's Reported WMD Transfers to Iran

Entities in India and Iran appear to have engaged in very limited nuclear, chemical and
missile-related transfers over the years. There are no publicly available indications of
activities related to biological weapons. In the early 1990s, when Iran actively sought nuclear-related
assistance and technology from many foreign sources, India appears to have played
only a minor role in contrast to other states. India signed an agreement in November 1991
to provide a 10-megawatt research reactor to Tehran, but canceled under pressure from the
United States. Nonetheless, India reportedly trained Iranian nuclear scientists in the 1990s.15
More recently, India’s Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh stated in December 2003 that India
“has and would continue to help Iran in its controversial bid to generate nuclear energy.”16

From 1998 to 2003, the United States has imposed nonproliferation sanctions on
several different Indian entities for chemical and biological-weapons related transfers to
Iraq.17 In 2004, the United States imposed sanctions on two Indian scientists for nuclear-related
transfers to Iran: Dr. C. Surendar (sanctions on Dr. Surendar were lifted in
December 2005) and Dr. Y.S.R. Prasad. Both scientists were high-ranking officials in
the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Limited (NPCIL). Indian officials protested,
stating that cooperation had taken place under the auspices of the IAEA Technical
Cooperation program. Other reports suggest that the scientists, who had served as
Chairman and Managing Director of the NPCIL, which runs India’s power reactors,
passed information to Iran on tritium extraction from heavy water reactors.18 In December
2005, sanctions were imposed on Sabero Organic Chemicals Gujarat Ltd. and Sandhya
Organic Chemicals Pvt. Ltd. for transfers of chemical-related items to Iran. In July 2006,
sanctions were imposed on two more chemical manufacturers in India for transfers to Iran
— Balaji Amines and Prachi Poly Products.

In the chemical area, there is one confirmed transfer of 60 tons of thionyl chloride,
a chemical that can be used in the production of mustard gas, from India to Iran in March
1989.19 Other shipments in that timeframe reportedly were halted under U.S. pressure.
India does not appear in the CIA’s unclassified nonproliferation report to Congress as a
supplier of chemical-weapons-related exports to Iran since the report began publication
in 1997. India signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 and deposited its
instrument of ratification until 1996.

Endnotes

15 See here.

16 “India Denies Nuclear Cooperation with Iran,” Agence France Presse, December 13, 2003.

17 This discussion taken from a response to Questions for the Record Submitted to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by Senator Richard Lugar (#2), Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 5, 2006.

18 John Larkin and Jay Solomon, “As Ties Between India and Iran Rise, U.S. Grows Edgy,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2005.

19 Thionyl chloride is a Schedule 3 chemical under the Chemical Weapons Convention. It has military and civilian uses, and is widely used in the laboratory and in industry.

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