The recent Indo-US nuclear deal is pregnant with several many epoch-making implications for the bilateral relationship between the two countries. Most significantly, the deal is being seen as marking a major policy shift in the United States' foreign policy vis-a-vis India in contrast to its usual penchant for treating India on par with Pakistan.
However, critics have strongly objected to certain aspects of the deal including reference to the threat of scrapping it in case of India conducting further nuclear tests. Many have found such a reference to be highly obnoxious and an interference with India's sovereign rights. While healthy debate on such a treaty is always advisable in keeping with our democratic ethos, the same should not be allowed to go to such an extent as to throw the baby out with the bath water. Some issues revolving around this particular objection to the deal may be discussed.
One feels that the objection to the deal being called off and sanctions being imposed by the US in case of further nuclear tests by India is unwarranted. In all such cases involving our national security, we should be guided more by our 'immediate interests' than anything else. And the call of our immediate national interests far outweighs these trifling objections from doubting Thomases. The deal signifies and promises many more things than it does on the surface. Even though we have not cared all along for objections and sanctions from the US and its allies vis-?-vis our national nuclear programme, we have definitely struggled with certain aspects of our nuclear programme because of the lack of support from the 'Big Five' and the consequent lack of international legitimacy. The new nuke deal almost legitimizes India's nuclear weapons programme and, thereby, also recognizes our desire and capacity to play an important role on the world scene. The deal also separates India from such nations as Iran and North Korea, the so-called 'rogue states' and recognizes India as an important and responsible member of the Comity of Nations. The deal, thus, elevates India to a higher plane rather than continuing to bracket it with the so-called 'rogue states'.
There is no disputing the fact that the Indo-US nuclear deal signifies more than a landmark in Indo-US bilateral relations. While recognizing India as an important ally, the deal brings the two countries closer and opens avenues for the further deepening and strengthening of bilateral ties. Realpolitik demands that by being closer, by way of a strategic partnership, to the sole superpower is always in our best interests as it also allows us better leverage vis-a-vis Pakistan. In all this, the US seems guided not only by the advantage of keeping the world's largest democracy and third largest economy (in purchasing power parity terms) on its side, but also seems goaded by the major commercial interests of its military-industrial complex.
While we should go ahead with nuclear tests if our national interests so demand without feeling encumbered by the veiled threat of scrapping the deal in case of such tests, there is definitely no need for such tests in the present as the cost-benefit analysis would suggest that they would not serve any purpose. So, without being hobbled by speculative issues, we should live by the present. The deal assures India of uninterrupted nuclear fuel supply. With India growing at an average rate of eight per cent and with our hydrocarbons resources being finite, we do need to diversify our energy sources, if we are to at all sustain our economic growth in keeping with our ambition of joining the 'Big League.'
The US had imposed economic and technological sanctions against India in 1974 and 1998, but we still soldiered on. In fact, we actually grew stronger out of the sanctions. So, we should be guided by our own policy requirements as far as our nuclear weapons programme is concerned and do as is needed in keeping with such a policy. In case of nuclear tests, the US would have anyhow done the same, deal or no deal, so why fear the sanctions? The treaty, in its present form, at least, promises us certain benefits which we should reap and carry on, while simultaneously exploring other avenues for outsourcing the required nuclear fuel and sophisticated enrichment-reprocessing technologies as well as attempting self-reliance in such matters so as to preempt any need for dependence on others in matters of vital national interest.
One feels that the various provisions of the deal should be seen in their entirety and the benefits they bring to the country. The deal signifies India's gradual emergence on the world stage as a strong player as well as its role as a countervailing power vis-a-vis China. It also underlines India's indispensability in the global coalition against religious fundamentalism and terrorism.
Note: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government.