The Indo-US nuclear treaty has many enemies, and now you can include the New York Times in it. In an op-ed piece, today's NY Times declares that the India-US nuclear treaty is a "bad idea" that senate should reject.
On the surface this seems like the logical thing to say. After all, the Indians have not agreed to any of the conditions imposed by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty on nuclear nations. But strategically, this is short sighted and misses a very important detail - India is the last bastion of democracy in a region plagued with violent undemocratic regimes.
Opposition to the Indo-US nuclear treaty comes from many sides, some ideological, some political. But there are very strong strategic arguments for supporting India.
- The nuclear non-proliferation treaty has more or less outlived its usefulness. The fact that India has gained its nuclear capabilities outside of NPT demonstrates that NPT is no longer a useful instrument. World should acknowledge Indian for what it is, a nuclear nation and should include it as such in the "nuclear club"
- India is the largest democracy in the world that has demonstrated resilience over the last 60 years in a region full of turmoil. The Indian electorate has time and again shown that it knows how to govern itself. And the Indian Armed Forces have demonstrated maturity and established that it is a very strong institution that knows its roles and responsibilities. This means that unlike other failed states in the region, the State of India can be trusted to fulfill its obligations - including the pledge to use nuclear power for peaceful, energy needs
- As a rapidly developing nation, India has growing energy needs. If these needs are not met, growth in India would stall resulting in political upheaval. Such political upheaval typically favors nationalistic elements which tends to have jingoistic attitudes (recall that the last nuclear test conducted in India was conducted by a nationalistic Hindu government). The best way to prevent nationalistic fervor in India is to keep the youth busy and provide them growth opportunities. This nuclear treaty will help India maintain and perhaps even accelerate its growth rate creating millions of jobs and increasing prosperity - two main elements of keeping nationalism in check.
- India is in a very rough neighborhood. Surrounded by two nuclear powers, China in North East and Pakistan in the North West, India needs the nuclear deterrent capabilities to safe guard its strategic interests. On the other hand, the West needs a nuclear India too to keep both China and Pakistan at bay. Taking away India's right to conduct nuclear test essentially would mean de-fanging of the Indian nuclear program and thereby enabling rogue elements within China and Pakistan a free hand in the region. If India is to act as a "check" on hegemonic ambitions of China, or "talibanization" of Pakistan, India needs to have nuclear capability.
- And last, but not least, is the moral argument. In the past US has paid lip service to promoting and supporting democratic nations. This is the first time that a US administration has put its prestige on line to support what is truly a strategic initiative in favor of a democratic nation. For that alone the Bush administration has to be praised and this Indo-US nuclear treaty ought to be supported.
The consternation and hand wringing by opponents of Indo-US nuclear treaty is understandable. The fact that there is a need to sign this treaty indicates that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the cozy arrangement within the nuclear group has outlived its usefulness. A nuclear non-proliferation treaty that does not acknowledge the nuclear (energy) needs of a growing democratic nation with key strategic needs is worth an overhaul. Signing of the Indo-US nuclear treaty is nothing but a mere acknowledgment of the fact that India has matured as a nuclear nation and deserves to have access to nuclear technology and fission material like the other nations in the nuclear club.
The strategic implications of such an action are huge - mostly on the positive side. Senate should listen to the administration and pass the bill immediately. Should the Senate pass the bill, this event will be recorded by history as a watershed event on the same grand scale as the event of the sixties that led to opening of China.