Selig Harrison: Some Reflections

28 Feb, 1998    ·   64

Kiran Doshi analysing the nuclear bargain proposed by Selig Harrison, says that that it should not be too difficult for India and the USA to find a compromise that would allow India to join the CTBT befittingly

Selig Harrisons recent study is the most serious attempt to date  to find a way out of the dead-end in which the USA and India find themselves on the nuclear issue. For many years now the USA has striven to curb the nuclear activities of other countries; India has refused to be curbed, partly because of its long-cherished moral principles but principally because of its genuine security dilemmas. What complicates the bilateral relationship further is a strong feeling in India that right from the start the USA has been specially unfair to India , a country which has always been not just a highly responsible member of the comity of nations, but also the most disciplined of the countries with proven indigenously-developed nuclear weapons capability. If today there is a national consensus in India on matters nuclear, and there is one, the reasons are clear as day.



The most constructive observation in Selig Harrisons study is the one that urges that it is in Americas interest to facilitate the diversion of energy sources in India and China alike. The recent Sino-US nuclear agreement, he advises, should serve as a model for a similar accord with India.The energy needs of a fast-growing Indian economy, like those of the Chinese economy, are going to be enormous for many decades to come. Not all of the additional energy will be generated without foreign participation. A substantial portion is going to be generated with the help of LWRs and technology imported from other countries. A beginning has already been made with the signing of agreements with Russia for commencing the Koodamkulam Nuclear Power Plant.  It is also in the worlds interest that energy in India is generated without much additional burning of fossil fuels. For one, global warming because of the excessive use of fossil fuels by developed countries is already a major threat to mankind. And if India , as well as China , were also to use fossil fuels that way, there may soon be no fossil fuels left in the world. In truth the world has no option but to have India go nuclear in the power sector in a big way.



Where Selig Harrisons study errs is when, while rightly comparing India with China in its economic potential and security compulsions, it tends to slip into the old American habit of balancing India with Pakistan in strategic matters. The point that thinkers in the USA almost always miss is that, regardless of what Pakistan may say or do, India regards Pakistan with watchful not hostile eyes. Nor does Pakistan constitute in any sense the limits of Indias security concerns.



India and the US are natural friends. Some obvious, some inexplicable, reasons have prevented this friendship from maturing. A good new beginning can be made if in nuclear matters the USA were to give India the same trust, confidence and technology access that it gives China, and on similar terms. As for the rest, for what some commentators have called Selig Harrisons nuclear bargain, it should not be too difficult for India and the USA to find a compromise that would allow India to join the CTBT befittingly; to see that India accepts the restraints that bind members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group; and to ensure that the American support for Indias nuclear programme is not diverted. Selig Harrison has done his bit to create a healthier and more mature relationship between India and the USA . The rest is up to the two governments.