INDO-US DEAL: LIMITS OF HARDBALL
Much of the debate on the Indo-US
nuclear deal going on in the public domain lacks depth since the critics and
supporter seem to miss the wood while counting the trees. The Indo-US nuclear
deal is NOT about the nuclear issue at all, it is only a means to an end.
Essentially the tough negotiations had a single point agenda- India’s place
in the emerging world order, nuclear deal is a means to it and NOT the end.
INDIA &THE US: A YO-YO
Historically, US was always more
interested in China rather
Till the early 20th century as the memories of British colonial rule
lingered on in the US,
there was some sympathy as well as support to the cause of Indian independence.
But since First World War and Anglo-US alliance, the US
in the British sphere of influence. During the Second World War, in 1942, the US was worried about Indo-Japanese alliance and brought pressure on Britain to accommodate Indian
nationalism ( The Cripps Mission). But the ill timed and failed ‘Quit India’
movement of 1942, convinced the US of India’s
ineffectiveness and it went along with Britain
in its creation of Pakistan
as counter to India.
In the Tehran Conference of Nov 1943, China
who’s contribution to the war effort was much less than India’s, was accorded the Great Power status, while India’s claims went unrepresented and were
dismissed by the American’s saying that India
is yet to win its York
this refers to the decisive battle of War of American Independence- Oct
Post Indian independence and once
China fell to the
Communist’s, the US did have
an interest in India’s
survival to halt the spread of Communism. As Thomas C. Schelling
( the Guru of strategic studies in the US) says “Nehru anticipated it for ten years………that
is one of the reason that he was so contemptuous of the kind of treaties the
Thais and Pakistanis signed with us ( US).” (‘Arms and Influence’ Yale University,
1966, p. 53). In 1962, despite being involved in a life and death struggle with
the Soviet Union over Cuba ( the Missile Crisis), the US
came to India’s rescue in
Oct-Nov 1962, when China
attacked India in the Himalayas.
The first faint stirrings of
Sino-Soviet rift started to apparent in 1961-62. A detailed study commissioned
by President Kennedy recommended a policy of economic engagement and military
containment of China.
The open clash of arms in 1969 between China
and Soviet Union over the Dymanisky
island and Amur-Ussuri river
border, saw a change in American policy. Soon a quasi Sino-US alliance came
into being, sanctified by Nixon’s visit to China
and Shanghai declaration of 1972 There the matters stood for nearly 20
long years till the dissolution of Soviet Union
India’s first nuclear test in 1974
was as much in response to the Sino-US alliance as it was to the NPT ( Non Proliferation Treaty ) a few years earlier. The 1974 Pokhran I tests had nothing whatsoever to do with Pakistan, that
was still licking its wounds after the 1971 military debacle. An incident of
1982 is indicative of the kind of Indo-US-China relationship. In 1982, Indira Gandhi and Ronald Reagan took major initiative to
put back Indo-US relations on even keel. At that time India was very keen to buy Cray super computers
from the US.
These were freely supplied to China
but Indian request was denied. When an Indian asked as to how the US supplied
it to China when there was no treaty relationship with that country while India
was denied the same, an American diplomat had stated that with China there was
no need for any treaty, implying that the Sino-US interest so coincided that a
formal treaty was not needed.
Throughout the period of 1971 to
1992, India was regarded as
an adversary by the US
and it collaborated with Pakistan/China in internal attempts to destabilize the
country and break it up. The murky ‘Kanishka’ bombing
cover up is only the tip of the iceberg ( In 1982, late Jean KirkPatrick, the US representative in UN actually expressed
the view that India was too unmanageable and must be broken into smaller
parts). To counter Indian nuclear capability, the US
go nuclear through help from German companies and AQ Khan. Enough evidence has
surfaced to show American connivance at the Pakistani efforts.
The 1991-92 collapse of Soviet Union was an unforeseen event. Most analysts had
expected the du-polar world to continue indefinitely.
In light of this premise the American actions vis a vis Pakistani nuclear
effort and generous tech/economic help to China make perfect sense. So also
the cold shouldering of India!
The entrenched views and world
bureaucracies were slow to react to this change. Right till 2000 AD the US continued it’s
hostile approach to India,
specially after the 1998 Pokhran II thermonuclear
tests. US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright (
a pun calls her Mad on line not all bright )
during the first term of Bill Clinton had even asked China to ‘manage’ South
Asia. In India
the situation was no better. Steeped in Nehruvian world
view, the Indian diplomats were jubilant when the short lived 1991 August Coupe
took place in USSR……..they longed for the return of old style Soviet
Union! For this brief period, the perpetual “monkey on India’s back’ Pakistan, was reduced to a position
The terrorist attacks on the US on 11 Sep and quick turnaround by Pakistan; brought in the windfall of American
aid to Pakistan
in return for killing of Mujahideen. Pakistan reverted to it’s ‘most allied of the
allies’ status for the US.
All this while China’s
economic rise and feverish military build up finally began to be taken
seriously by the US.
In a sense the present US approach to China seems a throw back to the
1960s when the aim was economic engagement and military containment. US engagement with Pakistan is limited to control of
its nukes and prevent ‘Talibaization’. It no longer
uses it as a proxy to breakup/contain India.
Though it would not like it to go under so that India does not become too big for
its boots! Today the real patrons of Pakistan are Chinese.
WHO ELSE BUT INDIA?
To counter the rising China, the US
has no alternative other than India.
India is the only country in
Asia that has the potential, both economic and military, to balance China on its
Western flank. Neither tiny Japan
nor ASEAN has that potential. Whether India has the ‘will’ to do it is a
moot point. While on the other hand, India
has several alternatives like the European Union or Russian Federation, with which it
can collaborate without raising the Chinese heckles. India’s decision as to what course it takes is
dependent on what the US
has to offer in return.
Ever since the 1974 nuclear test India has been
put in dog house as far as trade in technologies of dual use is concerned. The
“Wisenaar arrangement’ has comprehensive lists of
goods that cannot be traded with India. This has had a crippling
effect on Indian industrialization as well as defense preparedness. We are
working for last 20 years on a nuclear submarine without results……..( of course there are domestic/bureaucratic reasons as
well for this failure) . Once the Nuclear deal is signed that ‘Technological
Apartheid’ would end.
Apparently, given the likely
geopolitical situation for the next 50 years, the US
is actually interested in India’s
military build up. Indian military nuclear programme was
apparently NOT the
sticking point holding up the agreement. For it is today in the interest of the
US itself that India develops nuclear capability comparable to
that of China.
If one is to
believe the media reports then the problem area between the US and India was the reprocessing of spent
fuel, fast breeder reactors and Thorium cycle. All these three are
essential if India
is to attain ‘Energy Security’ and free itself from dependence on oil. Interestingly,
while the Arabs produce the oil, the oil market ( and profits) are controlled
by the ‘Seven Sisters’ or the oil companies that are American controlled. It
appears that as an insurance against future change in Indian policies, the US is loath to permit India to be energy independent.
On one hand the US caution is justified given their experience
(whom they aided to become technologically advanced), yet in foreseeable
future, of at least next 50 years, the Indian interests in world would coincide
Americans. In addition there is the large and influential presence of Indian Diaspora
Given this situation, it is indeed strange that America
harbours suspicion of India.
Given these lack of options on
part of the US, it is very
unlikely that the US can
really browbeat India
on the energy independence issue. India is no longer a country that
is living from ‘Ship to mouth’ (as in 1965) hence the American pressure is NOT
likely to work.
Again quoting Schelling,
(p.vii of Arms and Influence), keeping India away from nuclear weapons was a long term
goal of the US.
In this it has failed. Prof. Joseph S. Nye (a long serving
Asst Secy. Of State) observes that a great power is one that does NOT
have to alter its national interests to suit the situation but has the power to
alter the situation so that it does not have to change. The US experience in Iraq
has exposed the limitations of American power. The US
has really no choice but to adjust its laws and policies to clinch the deal
The US Non Proliferation ‘Ayatollahs’ are living in a bygone world………The US is
only using them as a pressure tactic.
For a change the Sinophile Communists of India are also playing a ‘positive’
role by being ‘negative’ about the Indo-US deal. The hands of Indian govt. are
strengthened by their opposition. Similarly
the anti Nuclear lobby (long promoted and paid for by the US), though now abandoned, and is
doing its bit by opposing the agreement with US. Such is the pathetic public
image of these media promoted experts, that anything they oppose is
instinctively supported by common Indians.
The story of Indo-US relations is
a tale of missed opportunities, misperceptions and miscalculations. The nuclear
agreement has the potential to profoundly affect the course of 21st