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US papers blast nuclear agreement

A Correspondent | July 21, 2005 02:51 IST

After a day of cautious criticism and in most US media yesterday, news of the US-India civilian nuclear energy cooperation announced during PM Singh's visit to DC more or less dropped off the map July 20.

 

Instead, at least two newspapers launched a scathing attack on the agreement in that most hallowed of newsprint space: the editorial page.

 

Even as the front page was taken over by the Supreme Court nomination – which seemed to overshadow the Karl Rove brouhaha – the Boston Globe decided to take a potshot at the US-India nuclear energy agreement, headlining it 'Dangerous Deal with India.'

 

The Washington Post, in the same space, called it a New Nuclear Era, and cautioned that while it's a gamble and might help as a counterweight to China, the US cannot be sure of closer ties with India, especially on such critical issues as the Taiwan dispute or other US-China disputes!

 

Surely by counterweight, the venerable Post does not mean – or expect – a stooge?

 

The Globe piece, while it hands India a couple of backhanded compliments, completely ignores the larger ramifications of the energy deal for India's economic growth, choosing instead to focus entirely on what other countries might do following this.

 

"…the message of Bush's nuclear deal with India to other countries that might be pondering a pursuit of nuclear weapons could hardly be worse. They are being shown that acquiring those ultimate terror weapons can be a steppingstone to recognition as a major power and that, after a decent interlude, they can expect to be pardoned for developing and testing those weapons."

 

The writer goes on to say that Pakistan and Iran will also ask for the same privileges, conveniently ignoring India's special position in Asia. For one, neither Pakistan nor Iran have the necessary safeguards that India has provided and is willing to provide.

 

In strategic terms, neither of those countries can muster the kind of influence a blossoming Indian economy can. Nor are their energy needs as great as India's at this point of time, when it seeks to expand its infrastructure development as well as manufacturing sectors. [TKN1] 

 

The New York Times' Steve Weisman today strikes a more hopeful note of the pact passing muster in Congress and with US allies, after warning yesterday that the Bush-Singh nuclear pact was headed for rough weather:. 

 

"I don't expect a lot of opposition in Europe," Mr. Burns [R. Nicholas, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs] said in an interview, adding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also spoke Tuesday to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and that his reaction was "constructive" and "not overly problematic."

 

But the Post persists with its belief that everything regarding India must be seen through the prism of Pakistan:

 

Pakistan, India's neighbor and rival, will seek a similar de facto blessing for its nuclear status. Given Pakistan's record as a nuclear proliferator, the United States ought to refuse this. A rebuff could help to turn Pakistan's anti-Indian nationalism into an anti-India-and-America nationalism; pro-Western secularists may lose ground to militant Islamists. If so, the upside of a stronger relationship with India will have to be weighed against the potential downside of a jihad-minded nuclear Pakistan.

 

And so, discreetly, the argument here seems to be 'don't give it to Pakistan, but because it might turn them against us, don't give it to India either'

 

It is interesting to note the double standards the Globe uses. India is commended for the 'sound measures' it has accepted in return for 'recognition of its status as a de facto nuclear power', among them willingness to 'place its civilian nuclear reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.'

 

In almost the same breath, the piece complains that 'India is still not permitting full-scope IAEA safeguards for its military as well as civilian facilities…"

 

Does the IAEA do half-scope safeguards as well?

 

Again, it criticizes India for not agreeing to "curtail development of its nuclear weapons and delivery systems,' choosing to ignore the fact that India has two nuclear weapon states on either side of the border.

 

It would be nice of the Globe could ask Pakistan and China to do the same. But hey, China is a key economic partner, and Pakistan a key ally on the war on terror, and never mind the fact that China gave Pakistan its nuclear technology, while Pakistan gave to anyone who paid the right price! And never mind that neither of those two have a democratic leadership in place.

 

The Post has it differently:

 

The Bush administration can answer that India has earned its exceptional status. Unlike Iran and North Korea, India was never a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore never broke its word; unlike Pakistan, it has not sold its nuclear secrets to others. But this argument may not prevent other nuclear powers from asserting exceptional status for their own friends. Russia may sell more weapons to Iran. China may refuse to get tough on North Korea. Both of these bad outcomes seemed probable anyway, but the administration's new stance has made them likelier.

 

The question is: if it's probable anyway, what difference does it make? And likelier? Hardly. If anything, the likely situation is what Burns is quoted in the Times as saying:

 

Mr. Wolf [John S, a former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation affairs]said that despite his own misgivings, he expected that the United States' allies in Europe, as well as Russia and China, would probably support the India deal because they would jump at the chance to sell nuclear components to India.

"Whatever they're saying now about this agreement," he said, "they'll be in New Delhi tomorrow."

 

As for those misgivings that Wolf has, it is interesting to see how hard it is to change mindsets for the non-proliferation days of decades ago. Wolf also reveals that officials at the State Department, including John Bolton, had resisted attempts to make a deal like this with India earlier.

 

Should we credit Blackwill for this breakthrough, then? Perhaps.

 

Here's what Weisman has to say about the former US ambassador to India and currently adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

 

Mr. Blackwill, in the current issue of The National Interest, a public policy magazine, says he frequently battled with the State Department on nuclear issues, describing opponents of giving India wider latitude in the nuclear area as "nagging nannies" whose policies he refused to put into effect.

 

 


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