United States-India Nuclear Deal:

The Fizz is Going Out

The US-India Nuclear Deal was signed with great fanfare in July 2005 in Washington at the Summit Meeting between President Bush and PM Manmohan Singh. High hopes and expectations were raised in India that the United States after standing on the wrong side of history in relation to India due to Cold War compulsions had now come forward to correct the stance. The Deal was rich in symbolism for India, and as I wrote elsewhere, and that paper was reproduced in this Column also in April 2006, it expressed the desire of both the United States and India to give more tangible shape to an effective US-India strategic partnership in the 21st Century. 

India was aware and so was the strategic community in India that the Deal would run into heavy weather in the United States Congress and with the Non-Proliferation Ayatollahs that abound in Washington. Enough indicators were surfacing in the wake of the signing of the Deal in 2005. In fact many of us were expecting that the US Congress would be able to give its assent to the Deal by early 2006 so that President Bush could present it to the people of India during his historic visit to India in March 2006.

But that was not to be and that prompted this columnist to pen the Paper which was reproduced on this site in April 2006 entitled: 'United States Congress at Critical Crossroads with India'. The major points made were as follows:

  • The main aim of the Deal was not to rollback or cap India's strategic nuclear arsenal.
  • The main significance of the Deal was political and strategic with the end aim of forging a strategic partnership between the two countries.
  • Politically, the Deal was a reaffirmation that USA and India now reposed trust in each other to forge a strategic partnership.
  • Strategically, the deal was a conscious attempt by the United States, envisioned by President Bush, that if India has to be a credible strategic partner of USA its power attributes have to be built up.

In an interview to the UPI by this Columnist at about the same time the following points were made:

  • US Congress needs to revise its attitudinal approaches to India. India is not a confrontational power to US National Security interests like China or Russia.
  • If the US-India emerging strategic relationship goes off the rails, it would be in large part due to US Congress insensitivities towards India's strategic requirements and what the underlying aims of the Deal were.

The rest is recent memory. It took the whole of the year 2006 and the assent came rather grudgingly in a lame-duck session of the US Congress. This also would not have come about but for some very sustained efforts by President Bush and his Administration officials working on the US Congress members to soften their opposition. This assent also came around because of the splendid and concerted efforts by various Indian American community organizations and individually too. India greatly appreciates the efforts of all of them.

However, the 123 Agreement Draft following this assent still contains a number of clauses or conditions which no government in India can ever hope to accept. These are aimed at curbing India's strategic arsenal and India's strategic autonomy. As stated in the beginning of this column, the aim of this Deal was to assist India in her energy needs by having access to international civilian nuclear power generation technologies and in recognition of India being a responsible nuclear power even though it was not a signatory to the NPT.

The aim of this Deal was not to cap or rollback India's strategic nuclear program. If that had been the intended US aim, then there would have been no question of any Indian Prime Minister ever inking his signature on that sort of a deal.

India is now being told that at the very best all the contentious issues in the Draft can be ironed out, at the very best by the end of 2007. Also are being raised questions by a number of prominent members of the US Congress that India is soft- pedaling the Deal and also fears and pressures by US business circles that India may not be giving all the lucrative contracts to them.

India is not soft-pedaling the Deal. India cannot be held responsible for the domestic political straitjackets imposed by the US Congress on President Bush's foreign policy.

At this rate the fizz is going out of this Deal and there are concerns in India that India may be forced to call off the Deal if the Agreement does not conform to what was originally agreed in the July 18, 2005 Summit Meeting.

Once again the Indian American community has to gear itself to impressing on all concerned the intended aims of this Deal which otherwise may lapse due to misinterpreted aims in the US political and strategic community.

One would not be wrong in saying that in India the prevalent feeling on this score can still be expressed in what this Columnist expressed in the concluding portion of the above quoted Paper, namely:

'At stake is not India's future or her security. At stake are US National Security interests and whether United States can stay embedded in Asia in face of all other options ranged against her. India is United States best security bet in the unfolding Asian strategic drama of the 21st Century.'   


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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