Monday, December 18, 2006

Credit to the Administration: U.S.-India relations

It is a sign as to how much oxygen the Iraq situation is drawing away from other foreign policy issues that something which has the potential to redraw the strategic map of the 21st century--the rapprochement between India and the United States--has received far less attention. This is arguably going to be the major "success" legacy for the Bush Administration.

It reflects what is sometimes becoming an all-too-rare quality: the ability to think in terms of proactive, forward-looking strategy. It is also important because it does draw U.S. attention away from the Atlantic world where so much has been focused over the last century toward the shifting eastward equilibrium of global power.

I do have one bone with the media coverage, however, as well as some of the analysis being presented by pundits. India is not a "new democracy"; it has been one since 1947 with the exception of the months of the emergency in the 1970s under Indira Gandhi. And the history of U.S.-India relations in the past puts to rest the myth that shared democratic values automatically produce common foreign policy objectives. What has happened over the last five years is not that India became more democratic, but that fundamental U.S. and Indian interests have coincided and, along with democracy, provided a solid foundation for a new relationship.


I agreee with you up to a point. But during the Bush administration, the NPT regime has fallen into tatters. It's not his fault; most of it would have happened anyway if Gore had won. (Gore would not have made a difference vis-a-vis the DPRK and Iranian programs.) Still, it disturbs me that there will likely be more nations going nuclear while no superpower or international institution is willing or able to work towards a coherent regime to replace the defunct one.
What happens, though, when India and the US diverge in the future? How long-lasting is the current relationship? It seems some in Washington think that India is now so tightly connected to the US that no future divergences are possible.
Nikolas, what exactly is "forward thinking" about the India deal? Essentially the US is repudiating the 35 year norm that if you want access to our civilian nuclear technology you have to be in the NPT. This kind of bull in a china shop attitude - which by the way is largely funded by the few remaining big US nuclear power companies as part of their search for a new market - rather seems the antithesis of forward thinking.

This is huge negative effect on nonproliferation is only exacerbated by the blind eye we have turned to the Brazilians shenanigans over the past three years. The same week Iran got referred to the Security Council for refusing to accept enhanced safe guards on the enrichment facility, Brazil opened a plant based on the exact same West German technology that isn't even subject to regular IAEA monitoring. And yes that's the same Brazil that ran a secret weapons program until at least 1990 and only joined the NPT less than a decade ago.

I'll be the first to argue that the NPT has some huge flaws and could use a serious makeover. But the simple fact is that it is the only thing close to leverage we have in dealing with Iran's alleged intention to build a nuke. (Hey Iran stop or else we'll attack you... wait, no... use sanctions to squeeze your economy... guess that isn't going to happen... get other countries to support us in telling you that you're misbehaving... that's right we've got Israel and Vanuata on board, so take that!)
For me, the NPT is coming close to the description of the old Assyrian empire--a "corpse in armor"--because I think we are at the point where states are resigned to a new round of nuclear states emerging and because both the US and other states are playing games with non-proliferation as an issue. We aren't going to invest the capital in reviving the NPT--so taking a bad situation and harvesting some benefits in our bilateral relations with India seems a lesser of evils approach.
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