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News Analysis
India breaking out of nuclear apartheid
K. Subrahmanyam

Among our nuclear scientific establishment, sections of the media and academia and some of our political parties, both on the right and the left, there is an understandable fear of the Indo-US nuclear deal getting India entrapped. The fear is understandable because of the history of the past 60 years in which the US has tilted towards Pakistan and has been estranged from the Indian democracy.

Even after the 1998 Indian nuclear tests, during the Jaswant Singh-Talbott talks, the US attempted to get India into the CTBT and to cap, reduce and rollback the Indian nuclear arsenal.

President Clinton during his eminently successful visit to India in March 2000, still lectured to the Indians about the inadvisability of a nuclear arsenal. Therefore, if one goes by our experience with the US up to the end of President Clinton’s term the conclusion that the successive US Administrations have consistently aimed at curbing Indian nuclear arsenal will be valid.

But the point that should not be missed is that the Bush Administration has come into office with a different perspective about the world and has a different strategy to advance US interests in a world that has changed. The American behaviour pattern has not changed. They are still out to sustain their pre-eminence in the international system.

But as President George Bush explained to an American correspondent at the Hyderabad House Press briefing on March 2, 2006, why he was rewarding India which violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), times and circumstances have changed. The Americans, ever keen on securing their own interests, feel the need to change their strategy to suit the requirements of times and circumstances.

Unfortunately, in India those who are still harping on the US hostile attitude to India in the past six decades have failed to take note of this clear exposition by President Bush that the US strategy towards India has changed because of the change in times and circumstances.

Those who have reservations on the Indo-US nuclear deal also do not give consideration to the fact that Russia, which is now emerging as the leading energy power, and is assertive vis-à-vis the United States on many international issues, fully backs this Indo-US nuclear deal. So do the European Union and Japan.

While there are still a few countries which are NPT fundamentalists in the Nuclear Suppliers group, the bulk of the group of 45 is in favour of this Indo-US deal and India being brought into the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. In India we should give some thought to the changes in times and circumstances which have brought about this attitudinal change all over the world.

India will have the largest population in the world and also the youngest population in terms of age profile. Its economy is growing at 8 per cent and it is expected to be within the first five markets of the world. India also gives signs of becoming a knowledge-based society. This is no longer a bipolar world with two adversarial blocs, but a balance of power system in which no major power considers any other as an adversary. It is a globalised world in which there is a great deal of interdependence among the major nations of the world.

China has a 300-billion-dollar trade with US and has $ 250 billion in bonds and bank deposits in the US. The US and Russia manage together a space station. There is a common research project on thermonuclear energy with participation of all major powers and now of India as well.

There is a security organisation covering all nations from Vladervostock to Vancouver. The Asia Pacific economic cooperation group covers the Pacific rim countries, including the US, Japan, Russia and China. It is expected that the economic centre of gravity of the world is shifting from the trans-Atlantic area to Asia where four of six major economies — China, Russia, Japan and India — are located.

These changes in the international economic and security environment have led the US, the European Union and Russia to conclude that India should be incorporated in the international system fully and the technology apartheid to which India was subjected should be lifted.

The equation of this India with other major powers of the world, including the United States, is different from what it used to be before economic liberalisation and India started growing at a healthy rate economically. India has more foreign policy options in a world of balance of power than it had in a bipolar world. Today India has a very significant foreign exchange surplus. The US,the European Union and Russia treat India as a strategic partner. Even China is engaged in a strategic dialogue with India.

The Indo-US nuclear deal recognises the existence of the Indian nuclear arsenal and does not seek to cap, reduce and rollback that arsenal as the Clinton administration aimed to do.

Therefore, our scientists, sections of our media and academia and some of the political parties, who still have an image of India as one of the non-aligned Third World countries of the Cold War era to which the major powers did not pay much attention, will have to wake up to this new reality.

In these new circumstances other major powers and particularly the United States find that partnership with India will be to their advantage. India could serve to promote a better balance in Asia and the world. Effective Indian statecraft would call for a strategy to exploit this change of attitude to India's advantage and to advance India's interests.That calls for a recognition that the international system has undergone radical changes and India has to change to adjust itself to the new system.

Unfortunately, not all people are able to appreciate the nature and extent of change that has taken place. They resist the changes others, who are cognizant of the changes are trying to introduce. They did this when the economic liberalisation or green revolution was introduced. A rapidly changing world will pass them by. India has already changed along with the rest of the world. India is determined to break out of its nuclear and technological apartheid though some strong vested interests want to perpetuate the status quo.




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