Indo-US Relations: The Pickering Visit

18 Sep, 1997    ·   15

P.R.Chari provides options before India during Pickering's Visit

The Problem



A "strategic dialogue" on the future of Indo-US relations would be initiated by Thomas Pickering, US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, during his forthcoming visit to India .



In a dispatch from New York (October 2, 1997) Malini Parthasarathy of The Hindu has informed that these discussions "would obviously include a focus on the nuclear capability issue but such a focus would only be in the nature of obtaining an insight into the Indian position rather than with the objective of formulating any policy". Whereas the US is hardly likely to abandon its non-proliferation concerns, it would be jettisoning its attempts to "cap, roll back and eliminate" the nuclear capabilities established in South Asia . In practical terms, this dispatch informs, "the [ Clinton ] administration would have a more realistic view of what could be done".



What, indeed, can be done has to be thought through by India .



The first option is:



Do nothing. And continue to keep, untrammelled, India?s "open" nuclear option for exercise, if and when certain currently undefined security threats appear on the horizon.



The second option is:



Negotiate. But, negotiate what? A dilution of India?s policy in regard to the NPT? Or CTBT? Or the forthcoming FMCT?



The third option is:



Make concessions on peripheral issues. Like, agree to a moratorium on nuclear testing? Or on future production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons purposes? Or, say, the deployment of the Prithvi, and development of the Agni missiles? Or agree to place our nuclear facilities/installations under safeguards in tandem with the nuclear weapon states? Perhaps, such concessions could be aimed at inviting co-operation in the nuclear energy sector? And, so on. But is that what we want?