Monday, January 30, 2006

Prepared To Walk Away

Nitin is not sure whether India's decision to abstain at IAEA on Iran is strategic or childish.

This follows US Ambassador David Mulford's threat to India which we argued is background noise -- what India needed to focus, instead, was hard bargaining. Well, we are getting some of this now.

It goes without saying that India's bargaining position is enormously weakened if it were not prepared to walk from the US nuclear deal. We think India's Iran abstention communicates its willingness to do precisely that to US interlocutors. Seen together with the weekend sidelining of anti-US Mani Shankar Aiyar and retention of the foreign ministry by the pro-US Dr. Singh, the message cannot be clearer: India is willing to cut a deal with America, but only at sensible terms -- otherwise we walk.

Iran itself is a useful sideshow to this Indo-US fencing.

This is entirely appropriate. Not only does this action silence domestic critics of the deal, it makes India more credible at the bargaining table with the US.

Ultimately, US must understand that it needs India perhaps even more than India needs it. India has prospered independent of US patronage so far, and will continue to do so with or without a deal with Americans. America, on the other hand, cannot really play in Asia absent partnership with the ever-stronger India.

India calling America's bluff is entirely within the rules of poker. Hopefully, this will eventually yield a better deal for India and a worthy ally for America.


Jaffna said...

Primary Red,

Superb stand and I agree.

I have one concern though. This subject needs more study. One Indian diplomat characterized the proposed Indo-American nuclear deal as just another term for the aborted "Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty". This got me worried and I need to read more on the subject.

I am concerned at the idea that restrictions will be imposed on the production of enriched uranium and plutonium in certain countries (read India) while other countries (read Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) are not bound by similar caps. The diplomat explained that India had sufficient fissile material to have a credible nuclear deterrant and did not need more. If so, why is it that the big 5 had opposed the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Surely, each of the countries would have had sufficient enriched uranium and plutonium.

I need to read more on the subject before I form an opinion. But something does not seem right here. The possibility that most of India's nuclear facilities will be declared "civilian nuclear facilities" and therefore open to IAEA inspection is a concern. Does a similar precedent exist for Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States? Or is it India alone that would be bound by the "dual nuclear regime" i.e. civilian with open access to IAEA and military? Is this a ploy to roll-back India's strategic advantage post-Pokhran by ensuring that most of its nuclear facilities are designated civilian facilities in return for the United States assistance? Can not India explore alternate energy options (say with Russia) or negotiate better terms?

Can anyone throw more light on the subject? I am no longer certain that the proposed Indo-American nuclear deal is in India's interest. But then, I could be wrong here (but certainly relieved). Over to you, Primary Red!

Best regards

libertarian said...

PR: CN's detailed coverage of the deal itself (absent the Iran murkiness) certainly gives pause. We should certainly be prepared to walk away unless the deal is a good one. Your point of the US needing India more than India needs the US is well taken. The US has a limited window where it will enjoy it's current dominant position.


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