Nuclear deal takes an initial step
But ND Batra says Indian diplomats still have their work cut out for them
By ND BatraAsiaMedia Contributing Writer
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Those of us who watched last week's debate in the U.S. House of Representative over the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006 had very tense moments at the closing.
Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, introduced a motion to recommit the Bill to the House International Relation committee to include a provision that India must make a full commitment to U.S. efforts to isolate Iran in its nuclear ambitions. It was a daring political subterfuge that would have killed the deal.
The intensity of debate over the Markey-Upton motion, and the thin margin (235-192) by which the motion was defeated, showed not only how strongly U.S. lawmakers feel about Iran's development of nuclear weapons, but also that India has significant hurdles to face in making the nuclear deal.
The impression given by the final count, 359 votes to 68, that the House gave overwhelming support to the India-US nuclear deal is misleading. There is a strong substratum of opposition, which cuts across party lines as well as scholarly and journalistic communities, to let India bypass the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and indirectly become a member of the nuclear club.
In the coming months, Indian diplomats have their work cut out for them because some Americans have yet to be fully persuaded that an India-U.S. civil nuclear deal is good for the United States.
Of course, the nuclear deal is good for India.
By offering India "full civilian nuclear energy cooperation," President Bush made a bold act of statesmanship to establish long-term strategic and economic relations with a country that many Europeans and Americans are beginning to perceive as a reliable global partner. The pragmatic partnership to let India grow and play its rightful constructive role in global affairs is not about containing any other rising power. It is rather a partnership to let India develop as an alternative model of economic growth without compromising fundamental freedoms.
The rapid economic growth of Indian economy, which some estimate will increase 8 to 9 percent a year for the next few decades primarily through the efforts of its rising entrepreneurial class, would lift millions of Indians out of poverty. An economically dynamic India would make the military containment of any rising Asian power unnecessary. The more equal players there are on the Asian stage, the less chance there is for a single hegemonic power to rise.
The deal would remove hurdles in India's search for alternative energy sources to fuel its growing economy. In a joint statement with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Bush administration has accepted India as a "responsible state with advanced nuclear technology," recognizing it as an exception to the rule, a country that should "acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states."
After the Senate vote in September, when Congress finally approves the deal, India will be able to buy nuclear fuel for its existing nuclear power plants and shop to build new ones. In the course of time, as trust increases and diplomatic relations further improve, a whole new world of sophisticated American technology would be open to India, enabling it to leapfrog past decades sluggish economic growth. In return India has agreed to do what other nuclear powers have been doing under the nonproliferation treaty -- to open some of its civilian nuclear power plants to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection and to continue the moratorium on nuclear testing. Its nuclear military arsenal would remain off limits.
Critics in India, particularly the Left parties, who fear that the deal would create co-dependency relations with the United States need to consider how China has benefited from its strong economic partnership without compromising its sovereignty. India must go beyond information technology outsourcing and penetrate deeply into corporate America.
An Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline -- if not a pipedream -- is only a very remote possibility; but even if it materializes, it may not be enough to meet India's gargantuan need for energy. Clean coal technology, nuclear energy and solar power are practical alternatives to which the United States has opened its doors.
Prime Minster Manmohan Singh was right when he told a joint U.S. Congress session last year, "There are partnerships based on principle, and partnership based on pragmatism. I believe we are at a juncture where we can embark on partnership that we can draw both on principle as well as pragmatism."
For the next decade, India's diplomacy should have a single-minded focus on one primary goal: speedy economic growth, which a partnership with the United States would hasten. Ironically, the opponents of the deal in the United States are banking on the Indian Left to scuttle the deal in the Indian Parliament.
The views expressed above are those of the author and are not necessarily those of AsiaMedia or the UCLA Asia Institute.
Date Posted: 8/1/2006