Saturday, May 16, 2009

India and Nuclear Diplomacy

India's recent elections come as a pleasant surprise, a big win for the ruling Congress Party, and a stinging defeat for the nefarious, nationalistic BJP. The Congress party should not have trouble forming a coalition, a departure from the difficult coalition forming that has characterized India politics for the last few decades.
The Times of India article:
NEW DELHI: India has yet again been surprised by Indians. Last time, no one thought a Congress-led UPA would emerge winners. It did. This time, many said Congress would be the single-largest party and UPA the top coalition, but few imagined Congress would retain office with 201 seats — the highest any single party has got in 25 years — and UPA 258 seats. And yet like a silent tsunami, the Congress swamped its rivals to triumphantly return to power.

This election was supposed to be without any national issue. The Indian voter, however, had different ideas — he has voted with his feet for a coherent and stable government. Manmohan Singh is set to take charge as Prime Minister and become the only PM since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961 to be voted back after completing a full five-year term. What's more, he will head a government without the support of the Left, whimsical partners like Mayawati or any other coercive ally. The middle class would be heaving a sigh of relief.

Mark Kleiman thinks after this win, we should even credit Bush's policy of bringing India in from the cold and reversing the traditional US tilt toward Pakistan. This seems to me what the administration had in mid when it cut the nuclear deal with India: a "Nixon goes to China" moment of grand diplomatic thinking. If we've forgotten about Bush's nuclear deal with India, the New York Times wrote a piece on the Bush administration's relationship with India.
In July 2006, 15 years after the Soviet Union collapsed and five years after Islamic terrorists became America’s principal enemy, Mr. Bush decisively reversed course. Raising India to the status of a strategic ally, he cut a unique exception in the global nonproliferation regime, proposing that India be allowed to keep its military stockpile even as it gained access to technologies and fuel for its civilian reactors. Over the next two years Mr. Bush used dwindling political capital to get the deal approved by the Congress and foreign governments. When Pakistan requested a similar pact, it was told that such deals were reserved for “responsible” states.

This was the diplomacy of the grand gesture, and when this barrier fell others followed. The American and Indian militaries increased joint exercises. They exchanged trade delegations. Their companies won expanded access to the other’s markets. American officials began to talk up India as a rising great power in a new century.

This seems a basic problem with Bush's approach to nuclear weapons, the administration always approached such weapons with the attitude that such weapons are ok, in the right hands. He was doubtless right to pursue such a close relationship with India, but the means by which he did it are questionable. Though the deal is legal under non-proliferation law (the guidelines which would have prevented the deal were rewritten), it necessarily undercut the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty by giving India all the benefits guaranteed to NPT signatories. The message to countries that develop weapons outside of the nuclear non-proliferation regime: hold on, and you could get legitimated by the world only superpower, have your arsenal and nuclear technology cooperation. Not a bad deal.
It makes sense that the deal was not extended to Pakistan as well. The notorious Abdul Qadeer Khan famously sold nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya, the last of which snitched and thereby blew the lid off of the network. Though Khan himself took full responsibility for the entire program (though he was oddly let off the hook) I can see from a Pakistani point of view such a deal being regarded as scary from a strategic point of view. United States nuclear cooperation with India, though ostensibly only on the civilian nuclear program, necessarily. It's no wonder that Pakistan has tried to negotiate a similar deal with France and increased its nuclear arsenal.


PNRJ said...

Admittedly, the whole idea of a treaty which says, "We can have nukes, but you can't" seems pretty unfair to begin with. We can easily see the unfairness when a new country (India) is added to the list of "good guys" who are allowed to have nukes---but it was already unfair to begin with.

Ewan Compton said...

The NTP is an unfair treaty, barring nuclear weapons to all signatories save those that have already developed them. Though the treaty urges nuclear disarmament for the 5 "official" nuclear powers, it does nothing to enforce. I am hopeful that Obama will follow up now that he has put full disarmament on the table, finally brining the US in compliance with it NPT obligations. On balance, it's better to have the treaty than not, as it prevents proliferation. One problem with a nuclear deal like this is it weakens the treaty by providing India with precisely the benefits promised by the treaty for not developing nuclear weapons.