India's Relations with USA: Post Pokhran-II

12 Jan, 1999    ·   169

Report of IPCS seminar held on India's Relations with China, Japan and USA: Pokhran-II, held on 23 December 1998

(Note: This part of the report is based on the presentation made by Mr. P.R.Chari.  The report of other presentations in the seminar by C.V. Ranganathan on Sino-Indian relations and Prof. Ramesh Thakur on India-Japan relations can be found in the China Related and Indian Foreign Policy sections respectively.)



P.R. Chari said that the traditional view of Indo-US relations points to its roller-coaster quality with its nadir was reached in December 1971, when the Seventh Fleet entered the Bay of Bengal . May 1998 represents another nadir. In effect, the nuclear tests signify India ’s challenge to the international hierarchy of power and its nuclear regime. Intimations of Indo-US relations prior to the tests hinted at a strategic partnership being evolved. Samuel Huntington’s thesis that India should join an alliance with US, Japan and Western democracies was indicative of this genre of thinking. These had been affected by Pokhran-II.



The Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks are not making much headway. There is far less optimism in the US than in India about the talks. A close reading of Talbott’s speech at Brookings Institution indicates that the US is “clearly upping the ante.” There may not be new demands but the goal posts are definitely being shifted. Talbott advised the PM to build public support and mold public opinion on the CTBT. It would be difficult to create a national consensus on this owing to rhetoric against the CTBT in the public discourse over the last couple of years. As the CTBT deadline approaches, India ’s hope is that the NWS will break ranks. Russia may not ratify the treaty since the Duma has not yet ratified the START-II treaty. A Russian rejection of the CTBT would strengthen Republican opposition to the treaty in the United States thereby leading to its collapse.



Regarding FMCT: there is no draft treaty in sight, since it is stuck on the verification and past stocks issues. India is opposed to a moratorium on further production of weapons grade fissile material, but is willing to join “negotiated multilateral initiatives.” In this regard, India should have no problem in joining the negotiations since it was reported to have fissile stocks for 40-80 plutonium based fission devices by end-1993.



India has agreed to institutionalize a regime to prevent export of nuclear and missile technology and, thus far, its record in this regard has been impeccable. Talbott spoke of establishing a restraint regime that places constraints on the development, flight-testing and storage of missiles, and also on the basing of nuclear-capable aircraft. Thus, the definition of restraints has been extended from missiles to aircraft. Karl Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, conveyed the impression to Chari in a meeting recently that the restraint regime applies to the to all "new" missiles which covered Agni-II missile. Inderfurth’s position was contradicted by Vajpayee’s statement in Parliament on December 14, where he said that India will press ahead with flight-testing the advanced version of the Agni, and not accept any limitations on weapons/missile R&D.



The “restraint regime” may be construed as an euphemism for capping India 's nuclear weapons program in its present state of development. If the government accepts the regime it will be hard-pressed to justify the rationale of the nuclear tests to its domestic audience. A more credible option would be to link by India “restraints” to progress by the NWS towards nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons. India’s de-alerting proposal is a good first step to engage the NWS, especially the US, in a dialogue to discuss the elimination of nuclear weapons.



Comments and questions: A participant referred to a recent seminar at the USIS in  New Delhi saying that the Americans were clearly bent on seeking to cap India ’s program using Kashmir as the `flashpoint’ rationale. While the US had the “temerity” to demand that India quantify and cap its program, the US was not offering any incentives for doing the same. Another participant questioned the need for secrecy about the Singh-Talbott talks. Yet another participant questioned the assumption that the US represents the P-5 or G-8 countries in its negotiations with India on the nuclear issue. He contended that there are divergent views within these groups and the US ’ view cannot be considered representative of them as such. One participant asked why the US was being considered the only lone interlocutor for India .



Chari responded saying that notwithstanding France 's dissenting note, the US stance was still generally representative of the P-5 and G-8 countries. He added that the US positions on nuclear issues had been personalized by President Clinton, who was deeply annoyed with India conducting of the nuclear tests which has seriously eroded the nonproliferation regime that was intended to be the centerpiece of his administration.