THE DEAL. This is becoming old news, but Strategic Security Blog had a detailed post on the India-U.S. nuke deal a week ago that lays out exactly what the agreement means:
Under Article 5.6(a) the United States commits itself specifically to assuring India’s access to nuclear fuel and technology. In other words, not only will the United States explicitly declare that it will never threaten nuclear trade in response to India’s weapons activities, for example, a nuclear test, but the United States will use its full influence to make certain that India is fully insulated from any such pressure from any quarter...
The deal seems to give India everything it wants with little in return because the U.S. administration does not want anything in return. Most who have thought about India-U.S. nuclear cooperation recognize that there is a tradeoff here: Yes, there is a certain danger to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to non-proliferation efforts in general if India is able to test and build nuclear weapons outside the treaty but, on the other hand, it is important to bring India fully into the international system and to strengthen US-India ties.
I'd go a bit farther; I think that undermining multilateral non-proliferation efforts is a feature, not a bug, for the administration. Indeed, one price of the ideological conformity that this administration demands of its appointees is that I doubt very much anyone in internal administration meetings can even seriously bring up the idea that undermining international institutions is a problem. Such institutions are problematic for two reasons; they don't (according to prevailing conservative opinion) work, and they limit the ability of the US to do what it wants. Thus, the trash bin.
Interestingly enough, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is having trouble convincing parliamentary opponents that the deal is actually as good as the deal is:
“The agreement does not in any way affect India’s right to undertake future nuclear tests, if it is necessary in India’s national interest,” Singh told the parliament here Aug. 13. “Let me hence reiterate once again that a decision to undertake a future nuclear test would be our sovereign decision, one that rests solely with the government. There is nothing in the agreement that would tie the hands of a future government or legally constrain its options to protect India’s security and defense needs.”
In other words, even the Indians are surprised at how blank a check the Bush administration has written.
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