Tactical Yes

The 16-2 margin of vote in the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation accord Thursday is a huge boost for the unprecedented deal arrived between US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the formers’ recent land mark visit to India. The vote in particular should be seen as a major victory for the Bush administration coming as it does two days after the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee approved a similar measure. Much credit also lies with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vigorously pushing the nuclear deal and winning over the sceptics inside the US Congress who appeared to be extremely cautious in treading the road map signed by President Bush with India. 

The enormity of the India specific nuclear deal seems to have dawned on Capitol Hill what with Senator Richard Lugar, the committee’s Republican chairman, describing the accord as ‘the most important strategic diplomatic initiative undertaken by President Bush.’ While the critics may have doubts on safety and security related issues, the weight of their argument simply gets drowned in the supporting stand for New Delhi’s democratic responsibility in managing its nuclear technologies. While the issue of non-proliferation has once again been brought to the fore with concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program, policy makers in the US clearly do not consider India to be a thorn in the flesh like Iran.

There is no doubt that the India-US nuclear-deal more than anything else represents the face of the post-cold war new world order. Washington would be the first to admit that it’s past non-proliferation policies and of the discriminatory framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) had alienated an emerging country such as India concerned as it was with its own security interests. It was precisely the inequality of the security apparatus arising out of the NPT that had pushed New Delhi onto the nuclear pathway and more so to challenge the exclusive nuclear regime of the five Nuclear Weapon States (NWS). Now that India has become a de-facto nuclear power, it would be in the overall interest of international security to engage New Delhi. 

The nuclear-deal should be seen in the larger context of the elevation of India-United States relationship which is now a strategic partnership as duly acknowledged both by the present Republican President and also his predecessor Bill Clinton a Democrat. If the deal is good for America, India and good for the international community, there is no reason why the American people with its representatives sitting in the US Congress would oppose it. 

At a time when the issue of non-proliferation has once again been brought to the fore with concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, India’s active participation within the new security framework will help in widening the ambit of the nuclear club, which had been the sole preserve of the western developed countries. As a pioneer of the south-south dialogue New Delhi can also use its influence among the developing countries and engage countries like Iran and work within the framework of the IAEA which will address Iran’s need for civilian use of nuclear technology while at the same time putting in place monitoring mechanism under strict international supervision. And for all this to happen, the US Congress over the next month will do a big favour for the cause of nuclear non-proliferation by opening its door of cooperation and giving a positive affirmation to the nuclear-deal with India.