Monday, July 25, 2005

India, the country you should not miss!

Nuclear non-proliferation and the war on terror are vital issues in US foreign policy today. India is one of the key countries on these issues. Also, it is important to accept India’s aspiration to become a global power without threatening American hegemony. Last week, from July 19 to 20, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington DC to talk with US president George W. Bush on nuclear proliferation and South Asian security. This is a turning point in American foreign policy and the global security. I wish people had paid more attention to this news. I would like to discuss this issue from the following points: non-proliferation, terrorism, and the global power game.

Before talking of those points, let me review the US-Indian relations briefly. During the Cold War, the United States sponsored Pakistan to buffer Soviet expansion to the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Therefore, the relationship between India and America had been rather distant. However, the 9-11 has made the US-Indian relations closer rapidly. Both of them badly need to stabilize Afghanistan, and defeat Islamic terrorism, now

At the last US-Indian summit, the Bush administration has decided to offer technological help for civilian nuclear programs in India. Since India is a nuclear power out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, this deal is very controversial. Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and deputy secretary of state under the Clinton administration, criticizes this in his article “Good Day for India, Bad for Nonproliferation” in YaleGlobal Online. He says that Bush admitted India’s nuclear power status with very little in rerurn. He is afraid that such a deal would undermine the NPT system. On the other hand, Mohhamed El Baradei, the head of International Atomic Agency, welcomes this deal.
Until ratified at the Senate, this agreement will not go into effect. Is it appeasement or a practical solution? You have to notice that America has been rejecting India’s wish.

The US has remained committed to its strong alliance with India’s nuclear-powered neighbour and rival, Pakistan. It has refused to endorse India’s chief foreign-policy goal, a permanent seat on an expanded United Nations Security Council. It opposes India’s cherished project to pipe gas from Iran across Pakistan. And it has withheld co-operation in military and nuclear technology because India tested nuclear weapons in 1998 and has never signed up to the international non-proliferation regime. (“Together at Last”, The Economist, July 19)

Therefore, some deal with India is necessary to develop the US-Indian strategic partnership. However, as Joseph Cirincione, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out, "Inspections of civilian facilities mean very little as long as India's military facilities are pumping out plutonium for nuclear weapons." Will India be a responsible nuclear power, as George W. Bush says? It remains to be seen.

As for the war on terrorism, India is a frontline. It sponsored anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan for years. Also, it confronts Shiite militants in Kashmir. In order to curb these threats of Islamic terrorism, India needs a strategic partnership with the United States. Also, the United States must be prepared for unexpected changes in the subcontinent. Currently, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan launches steadfast anti-terrorism operations throughout the country. However, there are still some pro-Taliban officials in the government, as Musharraf sponsored the Taliban before 9-11. Therefore, excessive reliance on Pakistan is risky. This is why close US-Indian relationship is desirable.

Regarding the global power game, people often talk about India’s relationship vis-à-vis China and Pakistan. Certainly, India will be a counterbalance against China. Also, if the United States makes excessive commitment to Pakistan over India, Pakistani leaders may believe that America cares little about democracy in their country. Therefore, the United States must seesaw India and Pakistan.
It is also important to notice Manmohan Singh’s comment in the interview with the Washington Post on July 20. He said that India is willing to play some role in dealing with Iran. As he mentions, India has deep-rooted relations with Iran in terms of race, culture, religion, and history. But can the global community embrace India’s ambition? In any case, more attention to India is necessary to analyze the future of the world.

India is not China. It is unlikely that India challenge Pax Americana. India is an English-speaking democracy, and it is essential for the United States to develop the strategic partnership with this country furthermore. On the other hand, it is too dangerous to overtrust India, because this proud nation has never been a wholehearted ally to the West since its independence. Managing such a delicate balance is the key to develop the strategic partnership with India.

Don’t miss India. Americans and Europeans focus on Islamic terrorism, and Japanese are keen on Chinese threats. Remember! India is an influential actor on both issues.