Tuesday, October 16, 2007

India Likely to Scuttle Nuke Deal

Every cloud does indeed have a silver lining. While the quiet announcement that India is close to rejecting a nuclear trade deal with the US is a major source of disappointment for the Bush Administration, rejection of the deal is most certainly in the long-term best interests of the US. The nuclear pact would have established a framework resulting in the trade of nuclear reactors, technology, and fuel between the US and India, ultimately establishing the US as the primary supplier of nuclear fuel to that region. (Washington Post: Nuclear Deal With India May Be Near Collapse.)

Political forces in India have grown to the point where such a deal with the US is all but dead. There is a very large anti-west sentiment in large sections of the country, and this nuclear deal appeared to many to be pushing India too close to the US. In some northern India states which I visited recently, there is even an "anti-English" movement growing in strength, establishing a link between the English language and colonialism, something that is still a sore point in India some 60 years after the British left. There was little chance, really, that given the anti-American sentiment in India this deal could garner enough support throughout the nation.

The nuclear deal was ill conceived from the beginning. Many here in the states are concerned that the deal would violate the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty since cooperation on nuclear energy requires a pledge not to develop nuclear weapons. India (along with their rival, Pakistan) is already a member of the nuclear club. The deal also greatly hindered our ability to enforce other nuclear non-proliferation issues through the IAEA and UN Security councils, namely in our diplomatic efforts with Iran and North Korea.

Once one looks under the covers, it becomes obvious that the deal was intended to be a political wedge. India is seen as a useful tool in keeping Pakistan at bay, and increased US-India cooperation is a prelude to the use of Indian bases and airspace once it becomes necessary to deal with the Pakistani problem. Providing nuclear reactors and infrastructure to a nation that experiences several power blackouts daily seems, on the surface at least, a logical choice. It would appear that India was not quite willing to accept the fine print, however.

The problem with the deal, though, is that India is not the US ally that one might think. While they are eagerly accepting US technology jobs, especially in the south, there is a tremendous amount of anti-American sentiment among the people, and even among many of the local regional governments, some of which are communist. India's long history of exploitation at the hands of the west have left them unwilling to become another pawn in the world-wide military theater, and some in the Indian government have rightly seen this nuclear deal for what it truly is.

The deal itself is problematic for the credibility of the US as well. On the one hand, we are condemning Iran and Russia for their cooperation on a very similar deal, right up to the point of imposing economic sanctions and covertly threatening military action in Iran. Then, when it becomes politically convenient, we offer a very similar deal to India, a nation that pursued, developed, and tested nuclear weapons capabilities thus pushing the Indian sub-continent to the brink of war. Something just doesn't add up in that mix.

So it appears India will do what the US Congress should have done in the first place. They will scuttle the deal. They'll do it for the wrong reasons, since ultimately, strong economic ties with the US are in their best interests, but I'm not complaining. I'd rather they make the right decision for the wrong reasons as opposed to plowing ahead with this ill conceived but politically motivated nuclear deal.

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