Thursday, March 2, 2006

Indo-US Nuclear deal - a great turning point

If you can’t make much out of what has been happening today -- when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush agreed on a controversial nuclear deal -- just read the title of my blog, Time and Tide, and the brief introduction below that title. Nothing is static, everything changes with time; Indo-US relationship hasn’t been an exception.

I can’t believe I have been reading so much about George Bush without the usual revulsion I used to experience. One, the passage of time and the recent tide of events have forced the US to – finally – acknowledge certain core principles of our country’s foreign policy. Two, without budging much, our government has been able to bring around the US to accepting our points of view.

I just can’t believe that the US has addressed most of India’s objections regarding the nuclear deal. Of course, it’sn’t a deal unless the US Congress amends some of the laws and approves it. Even though we don’t have the fine print of the deal, our PM and his team of scientific and strategic affairs advisers can be relied upon to safeguard our national interests.

The bottom line about all international negotiations on nuclear reactors is credibility and faith. If you don’t enjoy the confidence of the US – who set all the rules – well, you had it. Different rules for different countries, and India was a victim of America’s double standards.

Two major anti-nuclear weapons treaties are NPT and CTBT. NPT opened for signing in 1968. At that time only the five permananent members of the security Council -- US, UK, USSR (now Russia), China and France -- had nuclear weapons. The idea of NPT was "Except we 5, let no one have nuclear weapons." India termed it as discriminatory and never signed it. CTBT was also modelled in the same manner: to ban the testing of nuclear weapons.

Late eighties was the time nuclear weapons programme in South Asia began to take a serious turn. I believe India began to seriously assemble weapons after Pakistan secretly developed nuclear weapons. Pressure also mounted on India and Pakistan to sign the NPT and the CTBT. Rajiv Gandhi in his address to the UN General Assembly in 1988 spoke of the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons instead of allowing some nations to have weapons.Even during the CTBT negotiations in 1995, India's permanent representative at the UN Arundhati Ghose strongly spoke of the double standards.

India abondoned its shyness during BJP's regime, when in 1998 it tested a nuclear device. India admitted to its nuclear weapons capability for the first time, but very much like the US declared a unilateral moratorium. India showed the world that even without signing NPT or CTBT, it can be a responsible nation by not marketing its nuclear weapons. This was when the West, especially the US, began taking India seriously. There has been no looking back.

Ironically, Bush will use the very same arguments that India put forward in 1980s and 1990s to sell the deal to the Congress -- that India is a responsible nuclear nation state (like the big 5). Opponents of the deal in America say don’t reward India because it has broken all rules. Bush will, again ironically, tell them that India is not a signatory to NPT and so how can you say India broke the rules. (Iran is a signatory and still went on to make nuclear weapons, sort of vindicating India’s argument that NPT is meaningless.)

In the nuclear world, there are double standards. Earlier, we cried foul because we were victimised. Now we are a beneficiary of that US double standard. So, how do we react? If India’s national interests are served, who cares. In fact, when the debate opens in America, IAEA and the Nuclear Supplies Group, I wouldn’t be surprised if rules are changed to help India join
the elite nuclear club.

PS: Bush, did you notice how your opponents registered their protest all across India and in Karachi. Did you find some difference?


  1. hmm.. interesting!! :) But it can't be too wise to trust the US right? Never know when they might reverse their stand..!! Its a good thing.. that India added the clause that were the fuel supply to stop.. we had the right to change the marked civilian reactors back to nuclear ones.. Don't you feel that considering the fact that we have the largest thorium..plutonium reserves in the world..this all might with the end all view to stake a claim and a majority on it? I mean.. the US can't declare war on India.. cause we already are a democrary with fair can't be manipulated with brute force right?

  2. ** Deepti:
    True, can't trust US; for that matter no other country. No one trusts India either. It's all matter of shrewd diplomatic games. I have confidence that our diplomats play it well. And with the backing of competents guys like Manmohan Singh, Abdul Kalam, Chidambaram who are actually calling the shots I am sure our national interests will be safe. Anyway gone are the days of overarching US dominance.

  3. This was very, very interesting. Did you know, that many experts believe that the Nuclear deal has nothing to do with the Bomb. I mean, on the surface, the fears of the US Congress or the critics of the deal may be warranted and justified -- that this deal could supplement India's Nuclear Program but some believe otherwise. They say it has nothing to do with India's Bomb. It will only address the energy problem that is set to increase as India transforms its economy.
    Did you read my post on the same topic? Please do :)

  4. And I forgot to mention, the "Postscript" to this writeup, well, that's the ultimate punch :P