August 27th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

FILM CLASSIFICATION: Child sexual abuse now allowed in films

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The wages of spin is ... death? / First, the good news / Indoctrinating Muslims, and others / Hacks and spivs

OPINION: The shocking reality of sex trafficking

CINEMA: 'The Ninth Day' - Priests who suffered under Hitler

CINEMA: The Island - Futuristic nightmare of disposable humans

Women in combat (letter)

We already have a Bill of Rights (letter)

NCP not to blame (letter)

BOOKS: BETWEEN PACIFISM AND JIHAD: Just War and Christian Tradition, by J. Daryl Charles


COVER STORY: Is Canberra listening to 'the real world'?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Family First senator throws down gauntlet

WORLD AFFAIRS: Behind Washington's nuclear deal with India

THE WAR ON TERROR: Tony Blair's U-turn on Islamic extremism

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Quarantine and trade policy - a deadly mix

QUARANTINE: Citrus canker outbreak 'a national disgrace'

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Behind Washington's nuclear deal with India

by Dr Sharif Shuja

News Weekly, August 27, 2005
Washington values India as a strategic partner and wants it to become a world power, writes Dr Sharif Shuja.

The United States has struck a historic deal with India under which India will be permitted to acquire civilian nuclear technology internationally while retaining its nuclear arms.

Though India will remain outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), US officials say that the bilateral accord, concluded by US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 19, will "bring India close to treaty standards".

The agreement, if approved by the US Congress, would mark a historical turning point as it would end a major source of friction between the two countries - the ban on American nuclear technology sales to India.

Under the US-Indian accord, India will be permitted to buy nuclear reactor fuel and components from the US and other suppliers. But, in return, it will have to allow international inspections and safeguards of its civilian nuclear program, and to refrain from any further nuclear weapons testing and transfers of arms technology to other countries.

The accord attracted immediate fire from some arms-control experts who said that India should not be given access to the civilian technology until it signs the NPT.

The Bush Administration, however, is defending the accord. According to Nicholas Burns, US under-secretary of state for political affairs: "Obviously, it's the wish of the United States that all countries will join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has not made a decision to do that.

"So, we deal with the situation where a partner of ours, a friendly country, a very large country with significant energy needs, is willing now to commit itself to undertake all of the quite invasive measures to safeguard its facilities.

"That is a benefit, not just for the United States; it's a benefit for the non-proliferation community."

David Gollust, in a State Department bulletin (July 20), said: "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ... led the telephone diplomacy on the agreement with calls to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed el-Baradei and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf."

Mr Burns said Secretary Rice's message to the Pakistani President was that "growing US-Indian cooperation does not come at Pakistan's expense.

"It's very important, I think, to say again that we have this unique relationship with Pakistan, which is vital to our country in the war on terrorism."

Unique relationship

He continued: "We have another unique and vital relationship with India. And, as Secretary Rice has said many times before, there's no reason to have a hyphenated strategic framework for South Asia.

"Both countries are important. And there are issues where US policy intersects, and there are issues where we can have individual relationships with both countries."

This bold move by the US is widely regarded as part of attempts to foster India as a counterweight to China.

The new US Ambassador to India, David Mulford, said in early April that the Bush Administration wants to advance Indo-US strategic cooperation and has indicated that, as part of the "Indo-US Strategic Partnership" deal, New Delhi would be made a party to the "expanded dialogue on missile defence".

India, for its part, has decided to participate in joint naval exercises with NATO forces in Alaska. India has something to gain by this: it is aiming to become a major economic and strategic power.

According to the Indian Express, the US is offering India high-tech defence and space cooperation in terms of satellites and launch vehicles, Patriot and Arrow missiles and a greater role in global institutions.

When Condoleezza Rice visited India in March, she said: "This is my first stop as Secretary of State in Asia. The President has personally put a lot of time and energy into the relationship. The US has determined that this is going to be a very important relationship going forward and we are going to put whatever time we need into it."

The aim was to take US-India ties "to another level". According to her, the Bush Administration was sworn to assisting "India become a major world power in the 21st century".

It is rare in the past 100 years that a US president has sent a signal of this dimension. It means that the US will help India realise the global aspiration that its size, geography and its post-1991 economic reform agenda have made into a national obsession.

While Bill Clinton's 2000 visit to India symbolised a new outlook, the conceptual change has come under Bush. The core judgement is that a strong, democratic and influential India is an asset for the US in the region and the world.

Paul Kelly, senior journalist for The Australian, said that "The US no longer narrowly defines India within the terms of its rivalry with Pakistan, and Bush accepts the reality of India as a nuclear power." (Weekend Australian, May 21-22, 2005.)

In a joint statement issued by the US and India on May 19, 2005, during the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran to Washington, the two sides announced their desire "to promote democratic values and human rights globally through the United Nations, the community of democracies and other international forums".

Winston Lord, who accompanied Henry Kissinger on his 1971 trip to China, said: "We paid greater attention to China for geopolitical reasons ... despite the fact that China has a ruthless system and India was a democracy.

"But there is a limit to our relations with China because we share only interests, not values. The fundamental reason for India and the US coming together is our shared values." (Outlook, May 17, 2004.)

As US interests in India grow, the value addition would be a bonus. Bush's thinking is shaped by the contrast between India's democratic values and China's authoritarianism.

The US's underlying strategic view is that India is a second Asian giant - capitalist, multicultural, secular and democratic - which will exert a gravitational pull that must limit China's aspiration to global hegemony.

This is a recently-conceived US position for the long-term, and it does not assume that India can overtake China.

Military capacity

India has huge military capacity, is a nuclear power and is committed to democracy, but to date its record on non-proliferation is poor. Although India has "weaponised" its nuclear capability, the US has reconciled itself to India's nuclear-weapons status coupled with its relatively strict nuclear export controls.

Besides, India is a "strategic partner", whom Washington wants to "help become a world power".

In June this year, India and the US signed a 10-year agreement to strengthen defence ties between the two countries. The landmark agreement, signed by Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, will help facilitate joint weapons production, cooperation on missile defence, and the transfer of technology.

The US is also trying to push its defence wares into the lucrative Indian market. The decision by India's national carrier, Air India, to place an order exclusively with the Boeing company has gone down well in Washington's corridors of power.

A marketing and media blitz is currently under way in an effort to convince New Delhi to opt for American F-18 aircraft for the Indian Air Force. It is noteworthy that India has been offered the F-18 - which the US hasn't sold even to its NATO allies.

That's not all. The US is offering India "partnership" in manufacturing these weapons. And, most important of all, the US is offering India a greater role in global institutions, while India is trying to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

India's energetic effort to gain a permanent seat on the Security Council has entered its final stage. India, along with the rest of the Group of Four (Brazil, Germany and Japan), will introduce a "framework resolution" in the General Assembly for expansion of the Security Council and other reforms. That was decided by the four countries' foreign ministers in Brussels on June 23.

The United States has said that it will back Japan and one other as yet unnamed power (India?). Condoleezza Rice has bluntly told the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, that the US will not support Germany's bid for the Council. China is lobbying hard against Japan's entry. It is also unclear if and when China will take a stand on India's proposed membership. India is lobbying African nations.

Australia backs India. Australian High Commissioner to India, John McCarthy, has said Canberra supports India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council minus veto power, and added that the concept of permanent membership without veto power does not mean that it would be meaningless. "India has to decide whether it wants to become a permanent member without veto power," he said. (South Asia Times, April 2005).

India stands a fairly good chance of making it to the Council as a permanent member without a veto. India is America's "strategic partner", and that gives India's bid an edge.

India's entry into the Security Council will be seen as a great triumph by a westward-looking elite. The top one-tenth of the population will see it as a sign of India's arrival as a Great Power.

India's political elite and some strategic experts debate how far India should enter the US embrace. They point out that the interests of the US and India differ on foreign policy issues.

For instance, India has a major stake in a multi-polar world, which is balanced and orderly, not dominated by only one major state. The US would like the opposite.

One Indian critic, strategic analyst Praful Bidwai, said: "Today's India is driven by chauvinist nationalism. It seeks recognition as a great power - but is callous towards its people, a majority of them poor and victims of centuries of injustice and discrimination" (Frontline, July 2-15, 2005). India's present policy, he continues, "is unbalanced, excessively focussed on the US".

US embrace

India thinks it can manage this US embrace on its own terms. It knows that China and the world will have to take India more seriously, and India will have to give China assurances it is not joining any US "containment of China" strategy.

India is not being asked to become a US ally in the way that Japan or Australia are allied, since that would be impossible anyway.

India's Prime Minister has declared that India's new role in the world will be defined by how it manages globalisation. That is a far cry from Nehru.

And it dictates a diplomacy to underwrite entrepreneurship, markets and technology, with all that implies for a more positive view of the US.

The Prime Minister's media aide Sanjya Baru has said, "India is an ancient civilisation and has a mind of its own on each issue. But our views are moving in parallel with the US and Anglo-Saxon world."

  • Dr Sharif Shuja is research associate at Monash University's Global Terrorism Research Unit.

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