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The Rediff Special/ Sumit Bhattacharya
'Fast breeder issue was red herring'
April 07, 2006
Dr Kanti Bajpai, who wikipedia describes as 'Indian TV's most popular face on international affairs,' feels the fast breeder nuclear reactor issue was a "red herring" to "show the public" that India had "stood up to the Americans" in negotiating the nuclear deal.
It was widely reported that the issue of India's fast breeder reactors was one of the main hiccups while fine-tuning the landmark India-United States nuclear agreement.
But in a conversation on the sidelines of the Asia Society's 16th Asian Corporate Conference, the US-educated Dr Bajpai said it was probably a ploy -- just public posturing -- to show that India was not capitulating under American pressure.
"They had probably decided which reactors to be put under safeguards (from before)," said Dr Bajpai, an international relations scholar who was a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi before he took over as headmaster of the elite Doon School in Dehradun.
Dr Bajpai, who is in the process of writing a book on India's nuclear programme, disagreed with the view that the nuclear deal had put India's weapons programme under the threat of prying eyes and intellectual property theft.
"It seems India has enough fissile material (for its weapons programme)," he added.
Dr Bajpai said the Bush administration had showed some "astute diplomacy" in recognising India as a major ally.
In 2001, Dr Bajpai had written that 'storm clouds are gathering' over India-US ties. And now, on the same issue, he said, "I was referring to the difficulties we were having just after 9/11 -- because of the US move back towards Pakistan as a strategic ally."
When quizzed about what had brought about the change in Delhi-Washington ties, Dr Bajpai said America had sided with India on key issues, and shared some of the same concerns.
"Obviously, the Americans worked very sensibly to balance out their relationships (with India and Pakistan) and have indeed tilted towards India on a lot of important episodes. The most important being over the issue of terrorism, and in some ways over Kashmir as well," he added.
He said it was obvious that Washington found New Delhi's concerns over cross-border terrorism to be genuine.
"The other issue was of course recognising India as a rising power and as part of that, cutting the nuclear deal. And Bush has managed both things."
On the Rediff Chat in 1998 after India's nuclear tests, Dr Bajpai had said, "I am a Left liberal and I'm proud of it."
When asked about what a Left liberal's view was on the new India-US bonhomie, he said his Left liberalism was not limited to just foreign policy issues.
"Obviously, Iraq is a mess," he pointed out, adding that the American handling of the Iran issue was proceeding along similar lines.
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