Friday, June 16, 2006

Bush Administration Official’s Lecture on US-India Relations

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State, gave a lecture on US-India relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was a key negotiator when President Bush and Secretary of State Rice visited India this March. As I mentioned earlier, nuclear issue is the most critical hurdle for new strategic partnership between the United States and India. George Perkovich, Vice President at the Carnegie Endowment, points out policy gaps between non-proliferation specialists and grand strategists. Specialists worry that the US-India nuclear deal would undermine current non-proliferation regime. On the other hand, strategists see this agreement a good opportunity for the United States to have India to contain the Sino-Russian axis.

In the lecture, Nicholas Burns presents clues to these questions. (See the video on Windows Media Player and Real Player.) He mentioned that the strategic partnership has been explored since the Clinton era, because the United States needed realignment for post Cold War threats. Burns argued that policymakers should have a grand strategy view on India, instead of speculating nuclear bargains. He says that the United States and India share common interests in the following areas: security, economy, democracy promotion, and pandemic prevention like AIDS.

In security, Burns argues that America and India need each other. The United States pursues global leadership, and India for regional leadership. India exerted positive influences to bring peace and stability in South Asia. India persuaded the king of Nepal to give up power in order to soothe democracy movements. In Sri Lanka, India sponsored the peace talk between the government and the Tamil Tigers, along with the European Union and Japan.

The economy is no less important than security. As Burns says in the lecture, India is one of the fastest growing markets. According to “India outsmarts China” in Foreign Policy, January/February 2006, Indian economy is more prospective than Chinese economy, because it is more brain-intensive than labor-intensive China. India has become the most attractive market for the United States. US high tech companies invest India. Boeing sells their planes. Bilateral relations expand in every sector, from the government, business, to civil society.

Burns says that the Indo-American nuclear agreement must be understood in this context as well as non-proliferation perspectives. A rapidly growing economy, India needs more electricity, and it must diversify energy supply. This country had been isolated for 30 years from the global economy because it was out of non-proliferation regime. However, he says, India has never proliferated while North Korea and Iran violated non-proliferation rules. Considering this gap in the NRT system, he advocates the United States offer technological assistance to peaceful nuclear use in India. The United States can export nuclear equipments. Also, this is helpful to reduce carbon dioxide emission, he says.

On the other hand, he is so careful that he avoided provocative comments. As Henry Kissinger argues, Burns says it is not American interest to use India a counterbalance to China. His viewpoints are different from those of neocons’ who regard India a trustworthy democracy to contain China. As to Iran, he says India can keep relations with this country, as Europe and Japan do. In addition, he stressed new US-Indian strategic partnership would not undermine US-Pakistani relations.

Mostly, Burns is right. The most critical issue is the nuclear deal. Ashley G. Tellis, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment, testifies that this agreement should not be changed through congressional debates, because it is practical. India does not trust NPT, but it is necessary to impose non-proliferation duties on this country. To make it successful, the United States must offer something in return. Also, he insists that the congress not require burdens for the US and Indian governments to change this agreement.

The negotiation is still in progress, as the Times of India reports. The key to pass the debate at the Hill is how far the verification will be carried out under the agreement. For the United States, India has much potential as a market and a strategic partner. However, the bilateral deal must not damage current non-proliferation regime.

See also the Real Truth.