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News Analysis by K. Subrahmanyam
Rice sets the menu for a swing in N-deal support

In her testimonies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House International Relations Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had taken on all the arguments of proliferation ayatollahs and replied to them effectively, point by point. No doubt when strategic reasoning has to contend with irrational belief it is not always the former that wins.

Therefore we need not be surprised if in spite of Secretary Rice’s arguments many non-proliferation ayatollahs persist in repeating their dogmatic assertions just as religious extremists elsewhere in the world do.

The irony is that many liberals who were considered as friends of India now turn out to be dogmatists on nonproliferation theology and are therefore against Indo-US deal while many conservatives are proving to be pragmatists who accept the merits of the deal.

It would appear the liberal attitude towards India was often more in terms of patronization than true respect for India’s rising potential. The cold warriors of US were used to either client-patron or adversary relationships with the rest of the world and they had only contempt for the nonaligned. They find it difficult to adjust themselves to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s perspective of” a more lasting and durable form of global stability — a balance of power that favours freedom” in which India is counted as a balancer.

The first point she makes is that history is irreversible and India is today a nuclear weapon state and there is no way that can be changed. Secondly, India is a democratic country, an open society which shares values with US. It cannot be compared to other proliferates who, having signed the NPT are trying to circumvent it.

India has scrupulously adhered to the spirit of the NPT and not indulged in proliferation. India will not agree to stop weapon or fissile material production at this stage. That, according to Dr Rice will be regulated by regional dynamics. Though she did not specifically spell it out, that is an implied reference to China-Pakistan proliferation linkage.

Then she explained the benefits of the deal for US, India and the world. India, growing at 8 per cent annually will have enormous demands on energy. If India were to rely on only hydrocarbon fuels then it will become yet another fast growing emitter of green house gases as China has become.

Reactors to India will create additional jobs in US both directly and indirectly. India is offering additional civil reactors for safeguards, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of nonproliferation regime and the IAEA. According to Dr Rice, nonproliferation regime is bigger than the NPT and by implication incorporating India into nonproliferation regime without making it a member of the NPT as a weapon state is a gain for nonproliferation objective.

She has also allayed the fears that this deal would result in an arms race in South Asia. That would depend on regional political dynamics and the indications are the relationships among the countries concerned are improving. She highlighted repeatedly the restraint displayed by India all through the years.

Answering questions on exceptionalisation of India she pointed out that all nations except three are already members of NPT entitled to get access to civil nuclear energy. Of the three, Israel, Pakistan and India no US Congressman or Senator raised any questions about Israel. Secretary Rice specifically drew attention to A.Q. Khan history to justify why Pakistan could not get the same treatment as India. She discounted the suggestion that China might try to extend to Pakistan the same kind of deal as US had to India.

Quite a number of Senators and Congressmen raised questions on Indo-Iranian relationship. They indicated that as a quid pro quo for the deal they would like India to reduce its dealings with Iran including oil supply and military cooperation. Dr Rice pointed out that traditional allies of US like Japan and Italy had large trade in oil with Iran and there was only a nominal Indo-Iranian military cooperation. At the same time she drew attention to the Indian vote in the IAEA in support of referral of Iranian noncompliance with IAEA safeguards to the Security Council.

The spirit of the proceedings, both in the Senate and the House was summed up by the Senate Democratic Party leader Joe Biden. He said while he might not have negotiated the agreement in the terms in which they have now been finalised, the consequences of allowing the agreement to fail are so enormous that he would vote for the deal. In this he was joined by the former Democratic Presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry.

With such high level bipartisan support it would appear that the deal has a very good chance of clearing the Senate. In the House Committee the support for the deal was even more widespread. As one Congressman put it, he was yet to meet a US Legislator who does not favour further strengthening of relations with India.

When there was a reference to the concerns of the Arms Control Community, Secretary Rice reminded them she was once a part of that Community and went on to point out that the world has changed and it was necessary to adjust to the new world. The problem we face all over the world whether it concerns religious extremism or US nuclear ayatollahs or Indian politicians and academia is the same — the resistance to change. Since change is inevitable those who obstruct change and refuse to adapt themselves to it can only delay it but cannot succeed in resisting it.

While the one dimensional nuclear ayatollahs in US may not be able to appreciate the multidimensional changes that have come about in the international system it is obvious that US administration led by President Bush and Secretary Rice is leading the country to adapt itself to change. Most of the US legislators see this Indo-US agreement as a path-breaking move.

One of the points that clearly emerges from the proceedings of the US Congress is that the NDA leadership in India, after the nuclear tests just allowed things to drift and built the nuclear arsenal at an annual rate of 5 or 6. Those who did not carry out future assessments and plan or prepare adequately are now shouting about the possibility of capping, if the fissile materials cut off treaty were to be concluded.

At this stage immediate steps should be taken to step up production of weapons grade Plutonium and not be misled by wrong information that all pressurized heavy water reactors are producing weapons grade material all the time.

The US recognises that this country has developed only a very modest arsenal over the last 15 years. Therefore a stepped-up effort to accelerate weapons-grade Plutonium will only reinforce our commitment to go along with the Fissile Materials Cut-off treaty, if it ever comes. With a modest effort to build up our weapon-grade fissile materials stockpile in an accelerated fashion the country should be in a position to have a credible minimum deterrent in the next few years before the Fissile Materials cut-off treaty can be finalised.


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