Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Behold US Diplomatic Might

NSG waiver: This day will live in glory for India

From The Statesman
ND Batra

If you had any doubt about the global power and reach of the US diplomacy, you should ponder the one-off waiver that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) gave in connection with the India-US nuclear deal in Vienna on Friday. The NSG was established in 1974 after India’s first nuclear test to exclude the country from access to nuclear fuel.

Ironically, the same exclusive 45-nation club has now decided to allow India full access to nuclear fuel for civilian purposes, in spite of the fact that India never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The international group’s opposition to the deal came not only from China, as was expected, but also from a handful of smaller nations including Austria, Ireland and New Zealand, who wanted to give India conditional access, which of course India would not have accepted. A nick-of-time diplomatic iteration of India’s long-standing nuclear policy by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that “India has a long-standing and steadfast commitment to universal, non-discriminatory and total elimination of nuclear weapons”, and that India would observe a voluntary nuclear test moratorium was enough to clinch the deal.

Commending the atomic club action, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “It marks the end of India’s decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and of the technology denial regime.” The decision will be Dr Singh’s greatest political achievement apart from giving India the momentum of a dynamic 8-9 per cent sustainable annual economic growth. Few politicians have done so much for India as Dr Singh in spite of the fact that he is perceived so unglamorous, non-assertive and ordinary looking.

In some ways India’s nuclear deal with the US is not unusual. In early May, Russia and the US signed a civilian nuclear power deal under which companies in both countries would have access to nuclear technology through joint ventures. The agreement would open up Russia’s huge uranium reserves to US companies and give Russian companies access to the US’s multibillion-dollar nuclear energy industry. From being great nuclear rivals to becoming nuclear partners would be a giant step, if Russia’s recent missteps in Georgia do not dampen the deal.

As the head of Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Mr Sergei Kiriyenko, said at that time, “The signing of this agreement opens a gigantic field of opportunities for economic cooperation in the large and growing businesses linked to the civilian use of nuclear energy.” That’s what India should also expect from the nuclear deal with the US.

China too is going ahead forging nuclear deals to meet its increasing energy needs. China plans to build 32 nuclear power plants by 2020 at a cost of about $50 billion, an enormous undertaking which can be accomplished only by accessing nuclear technology and markets in the US, Europe, Japan and Russia. China has signed uranium deals with Russia, Australia and Niger. So will India, hopefully.

The nuclear deal will assure India’s growing economy reliable and uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel, when the last mile, the US Congress approval, is done. The civilian nuclear deal will open to India the world of sophisticated technology developed by the global nuclear powers, the US, Japan, Europe and Russia, with whom India has growing diplomatic and commercial relations.Access to high-end technology is imperative to keep India globally competitive.

The Indo-US deal is about having faith in India to develop as an alternative model of rapid economic growth without compromising fundamental freedoms. Rapid economic growth of the Indian economy will raise millions of Indians out of poverty. Without plentiful and reliable energy sources, however, poverty cannot be eliminated.

An economically dynamic India on a perpetual growth curve will lift its neighbours in South Asia and help make the world more economically dynamic.

Apart from removing hurdles in India’s search for alternative energy sources to fuel its growing economy, the deal will give India a strategic platform in the knowledge industry and encourage research and development in clean energy technology. As Mr Ratan Tata told Mr Karan Thapar of CNN-IBN a little over a year ago, “Over time this will give India a tremendously powerful position in the knowledge industry, in research and development, in high technology.”

From a humble agricultural power to a great knowledge power is every man’s dream in India. India must go beyond information technology outsourcing and capture the corporate global, as it has begun to do, for example, in automobiles and pharmaceuticals.

Clean coal technology, nuclear energy and solar power are practical alternatives for which the US and other advanced countries will open doors to India. France, for example, gets 80 per cent of its energy from civilian nuclear plants and is ready to collaborate with India in nuclear power development. India needs hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign direct investment in building power plants and world-class infrastructure to increase its manufacturing base in order to create employment opportunities for its growing young population.In the course of time a whole new world of sophisticated global technology will be opened to India, enabling it to spur its economic growth further. In return, India has agreed to do what other nuclear powers have been doing under the nonproliferation treaty, that is open some of its civilian nuclear power plants to inspection and continue to observe abstinence on nuclear testing. Its nuclear deterrent will remain off limits.

India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised, if the country continues to be economically and politically strong.
Poverty compromises national sovereignty. Poor, failed states have little sovereignty.

Regardless of who comes to power at the Centre next year, India should have one prime political goal: domestic harmony based on rapid economic growth in the range of 9-10 per cent that reaches the bottom of the pyramid, India’s not so silent masses that need more than the Nano and cell phones and slogans of azadi and freedom.

(ND Batra is professor of communicationsat Norwich University)

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