(I just got back from three weeks in India, a week in Pakistan and a few interesting days in the UAE, and so I'm going to go out on a few limbs here. I could be very wrong, but this is the way the situation looks to me at the moment.)
Just in case you wondered why the Bush administration decided to negotiate a nuclear deal with India that violates the sense as well as the provisions of the existing non-proliferation regime, go back and re-read today's New York Times:
Over the next five years military analysts expect India to spend as much as $40 billion on weapons procurement....As a result, the country will become one of the largest defense markets in the world.During the Cold War the Soviet Union was the principal supplier of arms to India. Now George Bush is making nice to India so that US defense firms can snatch some very lucrative contracts away from Russia. Of course, the deal will also open markets for suppliers of civilian technology as well.
For India the essence of the deal is not just access to ores not locally available. A mortal competition has developed between India and China, and India is often seen as second best in terms of economic advancement. Access to US nuclear technology will allow India to do some very useful leap-frogging. What’s more, China is the real reason for the big arms push. Pakistan may have the bomb, but by comparison to China, Pakiston is an annoying sort of mosquito. Not only is China the country that betrayed India’s trust in 1962, the Chinese are once again insisting that the briefly-occupied Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh is rightfully China’s.
While I was in India last month, I amused myself by watching the Bush administration and the Manmohan Singh government playing the same public relations game. Each was trying to persuade its more nationalistic constituencies that the pending deal is in the national interest. Each was forced to make statements that would alarm the co-signatory even as it placated the base. And then the statements had to be explained away.
Although there are indeed in both Indian and US legislatures those who could sabotage the treaty, that most likely will not happen. I won’t analyze the US situation here, but I am fairly sure that the treaty will be activated in India, because the objections, however much they refer to this or that provision, don’t really have much to do with the actual provisions of the agreement. Although the Hyde amendment is pretty hard to swallow, the objections are mostly political, designed to harass or embarrass the current Congress-led coalition government at the Center. Naturally the BJP, the Hindu-nationalist party which makes up the primary opposition in the Lok Sabha, objects to the treaty. It objects to everything the Congress wants to do. As for the leftists in the various Communist parties, the Marxists and the Maoists need to raise a fuss and grab headlines because they have no hope of coming to power, except as minority members of a coalition government. If this Congress-led government actually falls, they’ll end up with less not more influence on policy.
Back the arms market. No doubt the Indian government will let many contracts to the Russians. But India will not want to become totally dependent on any one supplier, and so the US will also gain contracts, assuming the India-bashers do not manage to kill the treaty in Washington.
Meanwhile, the US under George W. Bush has already made it abundantly clear that the US is not bound to honor treaties which hamstring national security. Conversely, should the US attempt to apply sanctions on India for not complying with US interpretations of the treaty, Indian leaders belonging to any party currently in existence will not hesitate to do the same. Treaties were once considered to be close to sacrosanct. That day appears to be over. So why not sign on?
Thus, in India, the mechanism for getting full support (or at least for muting opposition) is already in place. As a face-saving device for the Marxists who have denounced the treaty, the government has agreed to set up a carefully balanced expert committee to study it line by line. In due time, the committee will find the treaty in no way violates India’s sovereignty. The Communists will be able to say they were consulted and will quietly, if not enthusiastically, let it go through. The Singh government most likely will get its treaty and will probably not fall in the process, though it may be forced to call elections a little earlier than absolutely required by law.
George W. Bush and Manmohan Singh make a very odd couple, but in this case their interests coincide.