The Indo-US nuclear deal has come a long way, with clearance from the NSG. The Prime Minister went to the extent of sacrificing the government rather than compromising with the Left. The need for the deal became evident from the speech of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, LK Advani, who declared that "we will renegotiate the deal when we come to power." His objection was to the nature and content of the deal and not to India falling into the so-called strategic trap of the United States. Nor was there an objection to India becoming a subordinate ally of the US, which has been the obsession of the Left and its ilk. Indian diplomacy has displayed maturity and has acted in accordance with the economic aspirations of the country. This becomes evident upon a careful analysis of the following myths and realities that surround our 'strategic concerns.'
First, India's nuclear program is guided primarily by strategic threats from China. Nuclear deterrence involves a complete weapons system which includes a payload i.e. bombs, launching vehicles, missiles and bombers and launching pads (mobile as well and over-ground and underground facilities). The Agni missile programme is still in its trial stage and it would take time for India to develop an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile capable of bringing China within its range and thus provide India with credible nuclear deterrence. Today, Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle can drop nuclear bombs on more than one city with acute precision. However, India has a long way to go towards acquiring a second-strike capability necessary for any meaningful deterrence. Therefore, mere possession of bombs and a right to conduct tests would not provide us a credible deterrence. Moreover, in a world that may eventually, move towards reduced arsenals and non-proliferation, this is a retrograde proposition.
Second, the probability of a nuclear war in the South Asia is remote. The world community has gained maturity and is unlikely to resort to an exchange of nuclear weapons and India, China and Pakistan are no exception. India has already been constructively engaging China and Pakistan to resolve its border disputes with them and also improve its diplomatic relations. Poverty, hunger and unemployment are some of the biggest threats to the civilized life, and strategic concerns should be raised in terms of development rather than defence. In fact, one of the main reasons for the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union was the arms race with the US, which bled the Soviet Union economically and pushed it towards implosion. India cannot wish to emulate the same.
Third, the biggest threat, today, is the potential of weapons of mass destructions falling into the hands of non-state actors against which a different kind of preparation is required rather than nuclear deterrence.
Fourth, the theory of India falling into the 'American strategic trap' has misguided public opinion. It is an ambiguous expression being used for bashing the US. The allegation, that the US is engaging India to encircle China is trifle. The US military presence at Diego Garcia, Afghanistan, Iraq and West Asia is driven by economic compulsions of the US than a military game plan. India committed a mistake by projecting the nuclear agreement as an Indo-US strategic relationship rather than a normalization of Indo-US nuclear relations. India has unfairly been excluded from international civil nuclear commerce as a result of the US policies. The continued exclusion would have deprived India of a voice in managing emerging nuclear problems, such as the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets in case of continued internal instability, which is not in India's interest.
Fifth, it has been argued by some that the Hyde Act's binding nature on the US administration and IAEA monitoring would close India's option to conduct a test. The new US administration to take office in 2009 is likely to be headed by a Democrat President, which would certainly revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). If the US, China and Pakistan join the CTBT, India is likely to follow. Thus, the freedom to conduct tests is not going to live long.
Finally, greater economic ties with US will increase its stakes and subsequently lead to the development of 'security communities' in the US and India, thereby rendering nuclear war redundant. Moreover, with increased business interests in India, the US and other suppliers of fuel and technology would never wish to suffer losses because of instability in the region. India has always strived to pursue an independent foreign policy and this is lucidly demonstrated by its stand at the WTO, the ongoing Doha Round, its proven stand on climate change, and its struggle for a new international economic order. With India's growing need for energy, sacrificing the deal would have been too high a price to pay for an imaginary fear of strategic concerns and independence in foreign policy matters being compromised.