Monday, April 30, 2007

No Mangoes?

The much touted nuclear cooperation deal between the US and India has hit some snags and may very well be in trouble. The devil, once again, is in the details. From today's Los Angeles Times:

The high-profile nuclear cooperation deal that lies at the heart of warming ties between India and the U.S. has run into serious trouble over the fine print. ...

When proposed nearly two years ago, the nuclear pact made headlines as proof that the world's most populous democracy had joined hands with the most powerful to create a new balance of power, especially as a counter to a rising China.

But negotiators have been unable to reach agreement on issues concerning India's right to conduct nuclear tests, its desire to reprocess spent fuel and its demand for assurances of uninterrupted nuclear fuel supplies. ...

Though the proposed nuclear agreement would exempt India from the U.S. ban on technology transfer to countries outside the international nonproliferation treaty, Washington would still be bound by law to suspend assistance if New Delhi conducted more nuclear tests.

"Such a requirement is an affront to India's sovereign prerogatives," the daily Hindu said in an editorial last week, echoing the argument of many critics of the deal. "It is therefore completely unacceptable." ...

Another area of dispute is India's insistence that it be allowed to reprocess nuclear fuel from the U.S. to extract plutonium, which it says would be used only for peaceful purposes as it seeks to increase power production to keep its economy booming.

The U.S. has granted reprocessing rights to its European allies and to Japan for decades. But officials say that Washington's relationship with New Delhi, one marked by distrust and suspicion for most of its history, has not matured enough for the same treatment to be extended to India.

In the early 1960s, the two countries approved an agreement under which Washington guaranteed fuel supplies for the expected lifetime of a reactor installed in Tarapur in western India. But in 1978, four years after New Delhi launched its first nuclear tests, the U.S. Congress cut off fuel shipments.

Under the current deal, India again is seeking assurances of guaranteed fuel supplies. But opponents of the accord are chary of any American promises.

The current administration touted the agreement as proof that it could conduct foreign policy in ways that didn't require Cruise missiles and as a way to provide a counterweight to the increasing influence of China in the region. When the agreement was announced, many of us felt the deal was a bad idea for a number of reasons, among them that it sent the wrong message at a time when the US was working hard to close down the nuclear efforts of Iran and North Korea. We also worried about the effect it would have on the other nuclear power in the region, Pakistan, which didn't then and certainly doesn't now have a completely stable government.

The Bush administration obviously thought it would be able to maintain control over the Indian program, a control that India just as obviously is unwilling to give up. Frankly, that the agreement might very well collapse at this point isn't such a bad thing, to my way of thinking. Unfortunately, the result will be that we've managed to alienate, once again, a major power in that region, possibly pushing India closer to China, which the deal was supposed to prevent.

Way to go, George!

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