India Divided on U.S. Nuke Deal

The key question of President Bush's visit to India, say Indian online commentators, is whether the two countries will finalize a July 2005 agreement promising India access to U.S. and foreign civilian nuclear technology.

The deal would allow India to import natural and enriched uranium as well as so-called light water nuclear reactors. In return, the United States wants "credible and transparent" safeguards that the technology will only be used for India's energy needs and not its military, which already has nuclear weapons.   

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has faced "strong criticism from all sections of the political establishment, including supporting allies, for the civilian nuclear energy agreement," according to the Asian Age. Opposition is especially strong among India's nuclear scientists, says one columnist for the AA.  In a speech to the Indian parliament on Monday, Singh said India would open many, but not all, of its nuclear facilities to international inspections, according to The Statesman in Delhi.

The debate focuses on whether U.S. demands for safeguards infringe on India's sovereignty and freedom of action with regard to its nuclear arsenal.

The editors of the Indian Express favor the deal, saying "the US has apparently made major concessions on India's prototype fast breeder reactor and is willing to let India keep a significant number of reactors outside safeguards."

"It would be a pity if the two leaders now let the path-breaking nuclear pact collapse over minor technical disputes on the number of Indian reactors to be placed under safeguards," the IE editors say. "For Manmohan and Bush the nuclear pact was not an end in itself. It was about the need to build a strong Indo-US strategic partnership."

But the United States is not open to accommodating Indian interests, counters Vikram Sood in the Hindustan Times. Bush's position, he writes, is that "the US will make the rules on the nuclear game and either we play it their way or count ourselves out."

"The crucial question," says nuclear analyst S. Raghotham in the Deccan Herald, "is what sort of conditions the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress seek.

"These conditions may require that India should not test a nuclear weapon again, that it should not test an ICBM that could reach continental United States, that India should not change its de-alerted nuclear posture, or that it accept a fissile material limit," he writes.

Given India's insistence on "unrestricted, complete and autonomous control" of its nuclear weapons programs, all of these conditions, including U.S. congressional oversight, would be 'deal-breakers'," Raghotham says.

Singh and Bush are scheduled to meet Thursday -- whether or not they'll announce any progress on the nuclear agreement remains to be seen.

By Jefferson Morley |  March 1, 2006; 1:37 PM ET  | Category:  Asia
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By all accounts the agreement should be sealed by Thursday when the PM and Prez meet at Hyderabad House.

For the sheer symbolism, it would be great if it happens tomorrow.

Even if it doesn't, it is only a matter of time before India and US start civil nuclear co operation.

Posted by: Vinayak S Anawalikar | March 1, 2006 12:26 PM

India, welcome to the "great game." You are sure not a player in this game, but you are the tool that will be manipulating for the benifit of others.

Posted by: infoseek | March 1, 2006 12:40 PM

I think it is essential for US to have an ally nuclear power in the Southeast Asia region, and best if it is the very influential and rising economy like India. This deal is essential for India because it will help to make a mark in the world and grow it's nuclear programs to maturity of use. We should not forget that India has hostile neighbors like China, Pakistan, etc. and hence, using this technology for military purposes might always be an option but the option will always be a "well thought" decision.

Posted by: Abhi | March 1, 2006 12:43 PM

nuke them all!!!

Posted by: bob | March 1, 2006 12:50 PM

India has been nuclear since the 1960's; also, India has never attacked any other country ever - only defended herself. This is not your average third world nation that lives on purchased technology: most things - including nuke technology - has developed pretty much from scratch.

Giving in to U.S. rants will only lead to corrosion of India's sovereignty. There is hardly a truly independent country in the world today (almost every country is littered with U.S. military bases, which seem to grow like cancer) but India is one such nation - it would be sad to see India lose this position.

A uni-polar world that solely exists to serve the needs of the U.S. alone is - to say the least - dangerous. We should not let things lead to that.

Posted by: Callisse | March 1, 2006 01:07 PM

The Non-Proliferation Treaty -- is debunk and useless if US n India sign this deal. So India disses NPT, tests nukes and gets rewarded, good job.. now any surprise all Mid-East countries want to do the same? And whatever happened to all those sign NPT for nuke technology statements? And on a different note, is anyone surprised India supports the President so much, there are thousands of jobs going there every minute, why would not they support the President, who is the Isiah Thomas of political kingpin!!

Posted by: Nathan | March 1, 2006 01:20 PM

Here desperate two need each other, here mutual interest converge (Post cold war, post 9/11). Relationship which was put into cold for 4 decades is warming-heating-boiling hot.US nuclear power technology (35 years old, no new plant since 35 years) need revival(old plants coming to retire), so US needs a willing & desperate partner to colleborate with each other(effect is to bring down the replacement cost of us nuclear power station in next 10-15 years). What a nice hand shake! In next 15 years Indian(s) will be dominant in the civilian nuclear sector (like IT today). Remember India's only Urenium mine in Bihar is exhasted. Our Thorium cycle based power generation is still in dream pipe. This technology need lots of out side input to become real. Till then we need radioactive source from out side. (US has tons of plutonium (waste/ not needed for wepons any more)to share (sale).
Secondly, this deal will be a proof of confidence in eachother. So, Indian military can look for hardware here. Last year out of 10 billion militray purchases, USA firms got only 100 million (1%). Next is trade deficit with india is doubling in 5 years, so there has to be some mechnism to balance it. Next, If India is suffocated, you are boosting China in effect; so Not many happy takers for this. In short, both need each other on highend dual use technology sector, therfore this deal is symbolic in the sense it will satisfy the people(anti-India, non-proliferation buffs), look we locked up India, happy. Now, let us do other imortant busunesse, where we need india brain and men power like space, nuclear energy, nenotachnology etc. etc. Highend space research, highend techology development in the USA has slowed down in last 20 years, due to COST, COST $$$. With Indian (Cheap) hands this area can be boosted up.

Posted by: Rajur | March 1, 2006 01:22 PM

Another pretext to Colonize India
Indian people had been subjugated by foreign powers using different rhetoric that suits to the period. Moguls justified (with help of the old day sycophants)bringing culture,art etc to India; British used rhetoric of civilizing barbaric Indians; now USA is using democrazy, economic cooperation, terrorism etc. Present day sycophants - who supports Bush and USA( they do because their economic wellness depends on USA). Supporting USA is narrow minded and no good for long term interests of India.
Fortunately Indians will realize that they are being exploited in the name ideals and fight against USA as it happened in the past. I can bet history is going to repeat. The same sycophants will be make 180 degree turn around! That is why they are called sycophants!!

Posted by: RAJA | March 1, 2006 01:52 PM

Indo-US cooperation has a long way to go. both countries have deep commitment to common ideals of democracy and multi cultural pluralistic society.

beyond that India since independence is trying to build its own technologlical and scientific base, in the process trying to reinvent the wheel. India is fairly lagging behind in areas of modern technology and engineering and in this area there can be a major boost in cooperation between India and US benefitting both.

Since both US and India are comitted to same broad principle a conflict of interest a.k.a US-Iran, US-N Korea or even US-China is not likely to arise in near future.

India has to keep an eye on Chinese ambitions and so does the US. India could help itself and US by becoming a neutalising factor to China in years to come. The long term ally of US in the region, Pakistan is too small a fish to measure upto China.

Posted by: Chan | March 1, 2006 01:59 PM

What we have here is the true image of greed. The United States wants safeguards, huh? Are you kidding? Do you know who we are dealing with here? The only "safeguard" our government will ever get from any Muslim country, will be the one you use in the shower. How idiotic can our government be? We should be more proactive in up grading our security precautions, have one investigative agency working and sharing verified information and stay far away from any company or investors, that are in anyway connected to the Middle East. I swear, the Washington politicians have oil on the brain. Thanks, Gloria

Posted by: Gloria P. , Beachwood, NJ | March 1, 2006 02:00 PM

Sorry, I forgot to make one last remark. Maybe we can convince the Afghan politicians to keep Bush., after all, he's all for selling our own national security. They can use a man like him. Again, thanks. GP

Posted by: Gloria P. | March 1, 2006 02:04 PM

In India, most people who are against Indo-US cooperation are Muslims or Muslim vote-seeking political parties.

their opposition is not based on any pragmatic reasons rather that their holy book tells them to hate Jews and non-believers (signified by Isreal and supposedly the power behind Isreal i.e. US).

they are mostly ignored by majority of Indians.

Posted by: Chan | March 1, 2006 02:11 PM

I am certainly in favor of nuclear non-proliferation agreements entered into through diplomatic negotiations. I believe such agreements are essential for the survival of the planet. However, I do not believe the threat of force or arm twisting is useful. The more a country feels threatened, the more likely it will want nuclear weapons.
However, I am concerned about nuclear power plant safety in general. After the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island accidents, I think it is obvious that there has to to be international safety standards and inspections. Nuclear power plants for peaceful purposes are a given. Since the effects of a nuclear accident can cross continents, The safety of these power plants is in every countries concern.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | March 1, 2006 02:38 PM

Will we have a similar agreement with Pakistan, our partner in the war on terror? This could open a whole new can of worms?

Posted by: P. J. Casey | March 1, 2006 02:42 PM

I think that the nuclear deal is possible, if both sides can iron out the differences.

The US congress is concerned (and rightly so) that India might divert the technology it might recieve from US, France, Canada, etc under the deal might be diverted to the weapons program. India will have to put its civilian facilites and any future nuclear reactors built with foreign assistance under IAEA inspections.

There isin't much resistance to that idea in India. The primary concerns in India is that US congress might use India's dependence on foreign reactor/uranium as a tool to exert pressure on India. At the very least, Indians want this deal to be free of annual review/approval of the congress. Election year politics in USA cannot be a factor in India's energy policy.

If these issues can be sorted out, then the deal is possible

Posted by: Motilal | March 1, 2006 02:52 PM

Gloria P,

You are mistaken. India is not a Muslim country. It has a sizeable Muslim minority but is a predominantly Hindu, but secular, country.

The US will do whatever is in its own self-interest and India will do what's in its own self-interest. Where the two meet, that will form the basis of any agreement. Those who think that India will become a slavish satellite client state of the U.S. and will allow itself to be dictated to or used as an obvious weapon to counter China are sadly mistaken. After a few centuries of anomaly, India and China are regaining their rightful place in this world and, despite some tensions, both have more to gain from cooperating than being always at odds. The future looks promising for Indo-US relations but only if each respects the other while agreeing to disagree on certain issues.

Posted by: Fact check | March 1, 2006 03:11 PM

Chan! don't count/depend on muslim/jew hatered for India's development!
After all Arabs and Jews are blood brothers to day they may be fighting- tomarrow they will kiss each other saying their holy book says so leaving India in lurch.

Posted by: Raja | March 1, 2006 03:56 PM

NPT is just another double standard of the west. The world seems to have forgotten that a few years back Bush/USA and Putin/Russia, signed an agreement to abort the 3 decade old Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. Now, I ask you, is the USA and the West, in general, the moral police to decide when it is ok for them to stop and start building weapons, and then to decide which of the other (politically) smaller nations should and should not possess what kind of weapons?

The simple fact is that to support growth of a billion people, the energy sector in India has to improve. Using oil, hydro-electric and fossil fuel will invariably lead to a HUGE environmental damage. Nuclear fuel is the only viable source that seems to have the lowest environmental impact. Purely from this angle alone, the world has an obligation to allow India to develop civil nuclear fuel energy. And, even in this regard, we know of the double standards of the west, all of whom use nuclear fuel for energy, and are the largest per-capita energy consumers in the world.

Posted by: Girish | March 1, 2006 04:05 PM

Bush is courting India to contain China. We Americans should be cautious. India has the world's second largest population of muslims and its society is highly socialist today (more so than China). We should be encouraging China to become a freer society, not try to contain China with India (the result of the latter choice will be a more belligerant and xenophobic China, a threatened India, less stability in Asia). Plus, India is in no position to contain China, because 75% of India's energy needs are imported, and the Chinese have been outbidding every single oil field against the Indians, to the point that India has agreed to cooperate with the Chinese on the bidding.

Anyone following the recent posturing from Rumsfeld will know that the Bush admnistration is setting up China to be the next bogeyman, the next long-term Soviet Union caliber enemey, because Bush has sensed that the public is getting tired of Iraq. So this trip to India is just the first chess move, India will be the economic and nuclear counter to China. Next Bush will be asking the Japanese to revise their pacifist post-WWII constitution and build an offensive force as a military counter to China. Unfortunately, when the Japanese become militarily capable of taking on China again, all hell will break loose in Asia once again. The Japanese have attempted to invade Korea and China with overwhelming force 4 times in the past 500 years.

Posted by: toshiro | March 2, 2006 12:02 AM

toshiro, before you make some blanket statements, you should get your facts straight.

First, by what measure, do you judge India to be "highly socialist"? If you made that statement before 1991, I would be willing to concede. The fact is that most Scandinavian countries are most socialist than India is today. What do you know about India that makes you say something like this? I'm curious. Further, your whole antipathy towards socialism stinks of American xenophobia for that ideology. You should understand that most countries apart from the USA, court some form of socialism or another, and are largely succesful economies (like France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Singapore ... I could go on). So, the evidence of any socialism brings back only memories of the cold war era to you.

Your whole point of view is one of a global player deciding which pawns he wants to move and which he doesn't. America is inflicted by a terrible disease today - xenophobia, and your attitude seems to suggest that America wants to spread the disease around the world. India and China are currently having more economic cooperation than ever before - trade is on the rise, the border issue is more-or-less dormant with a status quo that both countries are comfortable with; nobody in India has any issues with China; if anything there's only the competitive spirit of wanting to outbeat the other in GDP growth.

It is the USA that wants to turn one against the other; your whole point of view of deciding which country to support and which not to, demonstrates a self-centered, xenophobic view. Not to mention your unnecessary reference to the Muslim population in India. If anything, Indians are proud to have such a sizable Muslim population in a truly secular democracy; the president of India is Muslim, the CEO of one of the biggest IT firms in India, Azim Premji of Wipro, is Muslim, and let me tell you that Islam is not the only religion that is prevelant in India -- there are Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and Parsis, apart from the majority Hindus. This has been the state of the Indian religious demography for the past 60 years, and India has demonstrated how it can achieve a true secular democracy amongst such religious diversity.

Your very mention of the muslims in India endears xenophobia. So, stop your hegemonic nonsense.

Posted by: Girish | March 2, 2006 10:15 AM

The opposition to this happy day in the India-U.S. relationship comes from two distinct quarters. Left and the Muslims. the two antagonists India has-one overt and the other covert- are Pakistan and china. It connects rather nicely doesn't it?

Posted by: Sudarshan | March 2, 2006 09:10 PM

Sudarshan, if India is a democracy, then it must court the needs of its citizens, including its minorities --- this, unfortunately, is the bane and principal weakness of democratic polity. So, if there are minority Muslims and leftists in India who object to something, then as Indian citizens, their opinions must be heard. Your attitude will only serve in alienating them, and will run contrary to the whole concept of a democracy. Just because you are happy about something and want something, does not mean that you expect the rest of the country's population to feel the same way as you -- that is the beauty of democracy -- an expression of different viewpoints. As E. M. Forster noted, that unfortunately is also what cripples a democracy -- so embrace it or denounce it!

Posted by: Girish | March 3, 2006 10:16 AM

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