Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Dance Begins ... India, Iran and the United States

Secretary of State Rice made a strong case on the Hill for ratification of the U.S.-India nuclear deal ... but now the dance begins.

The United States has a number of real concerns. India's ties with Iran, supevision of the civilian nuclear program, etc. Ratify the deal first and Washington potentially loses leverage over India. Impose too many conditions and reservations and India may get the message that no deal is likely to be forthcoming.

India has concerns. What happens if New Delhi accommodates all of Washington's concerns in advance--and the deal still can't make it through due to the combined efforts of the Pakistan and arms control/nonproliferation lobbies? It is the bird in hand versus two in the bush dilemma.

I think the real pitfall lies in the fact that both sides are going to try and hedge their bets. India is one of the best examples that democracy at home does not always translate into harmonious alignment with the United States abroad. The U.S. has a good deal of leverage based on what it has to offer--not only in the nuclear field but in so many different areas--but some of it is also "one time" leverage, meaning that the U.S. will not be in a position to turn the tap on and off at will (hence the hesitation of some members of Congress over India's Iran ties).

Sooner or later we will reach the plunge point where we either go ahead or we don't. The fate of this deal should be closely monitored.

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