Upgraded Ties with India Roil Strategic Waters
week's agreement by U.S. President George W. Bush to sell advanced
nuclear technology to India, coming three weeks after the signing
of a 10-year bilateral defense agreement that makes New Delhi eligible
to buy sophisticated U.S. military equipment, confirms a major policy
shift with global as well as regional implications, according to
the one hand, the Bush administration appears to have definitively
turned its back on key elements of a 30-year strategy to discourage
non-signatories of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) from going
nuclear, as well as its traditional "tilt" toward Pakistan
in the South Asian balance of power.
Washington agreed in March to sell Pakistan advanced warplanes that
it has long sought, Islamabad announced Monday it was putting off
a scheduled visit to the White House next week by Prime Minister
Shaukat Aziz, although officials there denied that it was related
to the new Indo-U.S. agreement.
the same time, the two agreements mark a qualitatively new stage
in efforts by the administration to transform India into a de facto
U.S. ally that can be used as a counterweight to an emerging China,
which is depicted increasingly by a variety of forces here, especially
the Pentagon, as the biggest long-term threat to maintaining U.S.
hegemony in Asia.
is seen as another brick in the anti-China containment strategy,"
according to Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who also called Bush's
decision to sell nuclear fuel and technology to Delhi "a huge
curries favor with India but undermines almost every U.S. nonproliferation
goal and will make it much harder to get the international cooperation
we need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons," he told
IPS, adding that it will now be much easier for Russia to defend
its nuclear sales to Iran.
definitely raises questions about U.S. nonproliferation policy,"
agreed Arjun Makhijani, director of the Institute for Energy and
Environmental Research (IEER).
countries that want civilian nuclear technology but that also feel
insecure without nuclear weapons will now wonder what is the substance
of U.S. policy beyond treating those who have them lightly and those
who don't with force."
nuclear agreement, which capped a state visit here by Indian Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh, was the latest and most dramatic step in
a bilateral courtship that began shortly after the collapse of the
Soviet Union, Delhi's Cold War ally. It gained momentum in the late
1990s when Washington became actively engaged in defusing tensions
between India and Pakistan, and accelerated after the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
importance of Singh's three-day visit was underlined by the red-carpet
treatment he was accorded. It included an address to a joint session
of Congress Tuesday in which the Indian leader vowed that his country
"never will be a source of proliferation of sensitive technologies,"
as well as a formal state dinner Monday night "the first
big White House social event in two nearly two years"
hosted by a U.S. president whose hatred of dressing up for fancy
occasions is well known.
Singh did not receive everything he wanted the administration
declined to publicly support India's bid for a permanent UN Security
Council seat or lift its opposition to the construction of a pipeline
that will transport natural gas from Iran through Pakistan to India
Bush's agreement to supply nuclear fuel and technology was
hailed by the Indian press as a historic breakthrough and confirmation
of Delhi's emergence as a major world power.
which never signed the NPT, shocked the world when it exploded a
nuclear device in 1974, and then again in 1998 when it conducted
three underground nuclear tests that were quickly followed by one
by Pakistan, bringing tensions between the two countries to a boil.
U.S. responded to the 1974 test by cutting off bilateral nuclear
cooperation and creating the Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG), now
44 nations strong, that has agreed not to transfer sensitive nuclear
technology to non-NPT states or to those that have not accepted
"full-scope" inspections by the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) of all their nuclear facilities.
the 1998 tests, the administration of former President Bill Clinton
imposed economic sanctions against India. They were repealed after
the 9/11 attacks at roughly the same time that Bush lifted a ban
on U.S. military aid and sales to Pakistan first imposed in the
early 1990s when his father concluded that Islamabad had, for all
practical purposes, built a nuclear weapon.
experts here said Monday's accord under which India agreed
to put its civilian, but not its military, nuclear facilities under
IAEA safeguards threatens the NSG, in particular.
whole concept was, 'Let's not reward countries that build nuclear
weapons,'" said George Perkovich, another nuclear analyst at
Carnegie who also specializes in South Asia.
want other countries to join us in enforcing rules, but then if
we break them, we could weaken other countries' willingness to enforce
those rules that we want to enforce, leading them, for example,
to do what we don't want them to do," he added, citing the
possibility that China may sell nuclear technology to Pakistan which,
like India, is not an NPT member.
and others stressed that Monday's agreement amounts so far only
to a statement of intention and that several hurdles could still
block its consummation.
U.S. Nonproliferation Act (NPA) currently bans transfers of sensitive
nuclear equipment to countries that refuse IAEA monitoring, so that
Bush will have to ask Congress to amend the law. Whether lawmakers
will do so is unclear, but early reaction among some influential
Democrats was distinctly negative.
addition, Bush is expected to ask the NSG, some of whose members,
such as France and Russia, are likely to strongly oppose any change,
to amend its rules, according to Cirincione.
he can get others to agree to change the rules, then it's not objectionable,"
said Perkovich. "But if he can't, and then he goes ahead and
does it anyway, then he's breaking established rules, and then you
have serious problems."
obstacles to fulfilling Monday's agreement were not the only reason,
according to Perkovich, why what he called "the tremendous
amount of hype and euphoria" that has marked this week's summit
may be a bit misleading.
U.S. is correct to recognize India's growing importance and improved
relations, but we're overlooking real differences that remain,"
he said, particularly in the area of trade.
one of the architects of Bush's policy, Ashley Tellis, has warned
that Washington's failure to follow through on its stated intentions
could quickly deflate the expectations and the influence
of U.S. boosters on the Indian side.
"given the difficult changes in U.S. policy and law required
to satisfy New Delhi, it will become increasingly obvious over time
that the Bush administration will have diminishing incentives to
accept these burdens if India is unable to demonstrate a new willingness
to ally itself with American purposes," according to a recent
study by Tellis, a former top official in Washington's embassy in
to Makhijani, much now depends on how willing the Bush administration
is to accept that India will resist being "moved around the
geopolitical chessboard," particularly with respect to its
desire to build the Iran-India pipeline and to avoid confrontation
the U.S. hopes that India will be a bulwark against China, the Indians
have made clear this won't happen," he said. "The relationship
will be on a good course if the U.S. recognizes that."
Lobe [send him mail] is Inter Press
Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service