Saturday, July 16, 2005

Crossing the Nuclear Threshold: India/US

According to Somini Sengupta at the NYT, perhaps the biggest issue on the table next week with the PM's visit to the US will be nuclear energy technology. I don't expect Manmohan Singh to come away from Washington with much... but I'm always willing to be pleasantly surprised.

According to Sengupta, India is currently on George Bush's good side:

Relations between the countries warmed considerably after Sept. 11, 2001, with joint warfare exercises and Washington's offer of fighter planes for the Indian Air Force. A defense pact signed in June promised joint weapons production and multinational peacekeeping operations.

The United States is India's largest trading partner, and Washington has welcomed India's new patent law restricting production of low-cost Indian-made generic drugs and an "open skies" agreement intended to draw American airline companies to a booming Indian market.

In a telling snapshot of Indian perceptions, a survey commissioned by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in June found that Indians were singular in the world for having a positive view of United States policy.

Ah the drug patents and the airlines again. The drug patents reforms infuriated the Left a couple of months ago, but now it might come in handy in terms of confidence-building with the business-minded White House. I've also heard reference to that bit about Indians being more sympathetic to the Iraq war than everyone else in the world, but I still don't understand it. (And I am, frankly, a little skeptical.)

Then again, with the current climate in Washington, it seems hard to imagine how it would be politically feasible to talk about nuclear technology given the missing WMD scandal that's erupted since the Iraq war, and the ongoing WMD suspicions associated with Iran's nuclear energy program.

Is it possible to help a country like India with nuclear energy technology -- so as to facilitate the building of much-needed power plants -- without getting into technology that might be used for weapons? What is the overlap exactly? (And if there is no overlap, why does everyone think Iran is building nuclear weapons when they say they are simply working on power plants?)


Rob Breymaier said...

I read this too. I find this confusing given India already has the bomb and an ability to make more whenever the government pleases. If they wanted to proliferate they would. It might be unpopular but India has become too important to punish severely.

Amardeep said...

Yes, and today it seems like the only thing being referred to is the permanent seat on the UN Security Council, which is dead in the water.

Rob Breymaier said...

Turns out they did agree on nuclear plant help. Still, I doubt this was a difficult decision.