Saturday, February 25, 2006

Negotiating the Nuclear Deal

Cynical Nerd published an analytical piece today contrasting the proposed Indo-United States nuclear deal with the earlier concluded Sino-United States nuclear deal. He argues that China drove a much harder bargain and achieved more favorable terms in its negotiations with the United States.

International relations are fluid and ever changing. There are no eternal verities in foreign affairs. The United States will not remain the sole undisputed super power for long given the sheer costs of its engagement in the Middle East. China is an emerging power on India's eastern horizon and had sponsored Pakistan's nuclear program in the 1980s with a far sighted objective to contain India. Indian decision makers will need to keep this in mind always.

India appears to have agreed to throw upon several of its nuclear reactors to the international inspection regime. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States did not make similar concessions in the past. This is an unequal nuclear regime. India should not foreclose options in haste to close a nuclear deal. In a transient international environment, New Delhi will need to retain defence policy choices at a future date.

Brazil, Niger and South Africa have vast uranium reserves. India should consider innovative foreign policy tools to leverage those reserves for its national interest. It can also learn a lot from Chinese resolve to maintain national interest at all costs when negotiating an international treaty. It is time to reflect on options and steely national determination as Indian and American negotiators place the finishing touches on the nuclear deal in the next day or two.


Anonymous said...

Nice comparison with China. Let's see how all this works out eventually.

Jaffna said...


Thank you for the vote of confidence.

One word of clarification might be in order though. Primary Red and I do not disagree on the inevitability or the desirability of a strategic alliance between the United States and India. And as his previous post indicates, we concur that India needs to drive a hard bargain in the run-up to nuclear deal as per any negotiation process.

I am concerned, though, that India does not appear to be driving a hard enough bargain right now. I could be wrong and Manmohan might well pull out a rabbit from the hat. Nonetheless, I remain concerned that India might concede more than it needs to, in what might otherwise be a good deal. And I fear that the media has not given the attention needed to the subject commensurate to its importance.

The Narasimha Rao administration did not proceed with planned nuclear tests in the early 1990s given strenuous opposition from the Clinton administration. It capped India's missile program as well. New Delhi got very little in return from the United States. In fact, Narasimha did not even receive a suitable Congressional welcome when he visited Washington.

Reports suggest however that Pakistan had tested a nuclear device in the early 1990s in the Lop Nor desert in China. The United States had turned a blind eye to Chinese proliferation. All I am arguing for is the need for India to drive a hard bargain in the run up to the deal.

Differences in viewpoint are to be welcomed. They stimulate debate. I reiterate my favorite Chinese saying "May a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend!".

Best regards

indianpatriot said...

For those interested I have included link of world economic history by Angus Madison. Please note that most of the recorded world history from 1 AD to 1500 AD India was the undisputed world economic leader which India lost to china for 200 years only to regain it 1700 AD. For yankee drum beaters like Primary Red it does not matter if India surrenders its soverignity under this nuclear deal by agreeing to all Yankee conditions. As an Indian I will take more sceptical view seeing Yankee adventures (like in Iraq and soon to be in Iran) as similar to British conquest of India and then decline(where they have to hold Uncle Sam's coats to be relevant in world affairs). The present century by 2050 may see India emerging as the dominant world power as always it was with decline of USA and China. Let us hedge our bets.

Jaffna said...

Indian Patriot,

I do not think that China would decline anytime soon. It would remain an economic and military power in its own right given its educated work force, its size, its capital assets, its entreprenuership, its military arsenal, its nuclear capability and its indomitable nationalism. Just look at the preparation for the upcoming Beijing Olympics, not to mention their space program!

India should be aware of this reality and define its policy accordingly. It can not barter away its long term nuclear sovereignty even though a civilian nuclear deal is welcome given its medium term interests.

Best regards

Afzal said...

How would you respond to Nitin's take on the subject where he effectively disagrees with you? Keen to hear you on that.

Jaffna said...

Afzal, Nitin,

Very few of us who are concerned about the implications of the nuclear deal (as presently defined) argue for "an open ended infinite number of nuclear warheads"! I also disagree with Nitin's view that "the issue at hand is deterrance...".

Our concern is much broader i.e. that India should not throw open an excess of nuclear installations to IAEA inspection thereby compromising its research capacity and options at a future date. 50 years of scientific research can not be capped by vaguely-defined international obligations that Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States have not acceded to. Why should India be subject to international constraints that the other five have not agreed to for themselves?

There is a strong case to pursue the deal to ensure civilian nuclear energy. But, let us not forget that western industry has as much at stake in the nuclear deal as does India. And herein lies a bargaining chip that India needs to leverage to extract maximum from the deal - like China had done a few years ago.

I would therefore disagree with Nitin's solution that reduces the issue to a more effective missile delivery system. This by the way, can also be compromised by possible Indian over-dependence on nuclear supplies from the United States given the current contours of the deal that might stymie local research capacity to develop future technology to process India's vast thorium reserves for dual energy-military purposes.

I only argue that Indian negotiators drive a hard bargain. The United States has as much an interest in engaging India as is the reverse. India should not concede too much. China offers a good precedent in this instance.

Best regards

Jaffna said...

Oops, forgot to add. Indian over dependence on the United States for nuclear energy could mean that the latter could effectively exert pressure to cap India's missile program - as it did in the early 1990s!


Anonymous said...

well put, Jaffna.

The crux of the debate, IMO is of India not bargaining hard enuf - and if the deal ends up denting our security, or putting our reactors under "perpetual" safeguards, then its useless.

Mumbai Monsoon said...

At the risk of sounding extremely ignorant, I would appreciate it if anyone could enlighten me as to what the US interests are in this deal ?

Primary Red said...

We are only speculating here, but ...

The US realizes the inevitability of India's economic and geopolitical rise. Also, that India will not ever join the NPT as presently constituted.

There exist clear and present reasons for the US to partner with India, as well as Japan and Australia -- thus, protecting its Asian interests in face of China's unpredictable rise.

Also, given India's strengthening profile, particularly in the Indian Ocean, its participation in US-led non-proliferation and anti-terror initiatives is unavoidable.

Finally, there are tactical gains accruing from US nuclear industry's commercial engagement in India.

Absent a mutually acceptable resolution to the nuclear issue, such multi-dimensional partnership with India is hard to sustain.

In fact, IAEA itself has been recently of the view that this stalemate over India's status is counter-productive. It too has argued for an arrangement that permits civillian nuclear engagement with India without requiring the latter to give up its strategic capabilities.

Therefore, the deal. It's really not breaking any new ground -- except for eliminating legal hurdles holding back meaningful Indo-US strategic engagement.

Best regards

Jaffna said...

Primary Red,

Brilliantly put. That should have been a letter to the editor in the New York Times.


Primary Red said...

Thanks, Jaffna.

Hopefully the deal will be concluded this week.

Best regards.

Mumbai Monsoon said...

Thanks Primary Red. Much appreciated.


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