| The Indo-US nuclear deal has become the symbol of India opening up to the rest of the world. It is not merely a bilateral agreement between India and the US. Through this deal, the US leads the entire industrial world and some major developing countries to free India from the technology apartheid it has been subjected to over the last three decades. Russia, France, UK, Germany, Japan and other nations who are members of a 45-member-strong Nuclear Suppliers Group have given leadership to the US to bring India into the folds of the international non-proliferation regime as well as the mainstream of high technology across the board. It all started with the American non-proliferation act, the US initiative to set up the London suppliers club and the subsequent development of an interlocking network of missile technology control regime, Australia group and Wassenaar Arrangement, all of which together constituted an effective technology denial regime vis-a-vis India. The former Soviet bloc countries and Russia, too, joined them after the Cold War. Even China has joined the club of nuclear suppliers. |
If India is to grow at 10 per cent annual rate-considered essential to alleviate poverty within a decade or two and make it a low-middle-income country-it must have access to high technology of all kinds, not just nuclear. But the US legislation on nuclear non-proliferation is the lynchpin of the entire global technology denial system.
Given its global implications, rejecting this deal would be an unpardonable folly.
The French claim it was President Jacques Chirac who urged President George W. Bush to take the initiative in this respect vis-a-vis India. Considering the positive reactions of several industrialised nations towards making an exception for India with regards to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for civil nuclear cooperation, it is obvious the move is not a conspiracy by Washington to trap India and disarm its meagre nuclear arsenal but a major international effort to enable India to grow fast as an economic and technological power so that it can contribute to an Asian and global balance of power. In the next three decades, India is likely to have the world's largest population and also a younger age profile compared to China, Japan, Russia and the European Union.
In this new age of balance of power and globalised economy, the economic growth of India is not viewed with concern by other major powers but as a possible engine of growth in the world economy. India is one of the last frontiers in terms of large market opening. Without this shared perception of India's positive role in global economy and polity, the US by itself would not have been able to grant India exception from the NPT.
Today's world is vastly different from that of the Cold War era. Apart from the World Trade Organisation regulating international trade, there is the G-8 group of countries which look at world economy as an integral whole. China and India aspire to become members of this group. In the emerging international scenario, one does not expect the major balancers of power-the US, the European Union, Russia, China, Japan and India-to enter into a conflict with one another. In this globalised world, India, under technology denial, would be an anachronism. Therefore, this step has been taken by the international community. The US is only spearheading it.
In addition, the US has a stake in making India a strategic partner. In 1971, Washington did a U-turn in its policy vis-a-vis China and, thereby, benefited strategically and economically. Now, it considers necessary to make a similar U-turn for India in order to maintain its global pre-eminence as the foremost power in terms of competitiveness and innovativeness. The US is able to tap India's latent potential and in the six-nation power balance, India, as time goes by, is likely to be the closest partner for the US in the areas of value system, population interaction, language and congruence of global interests. Hence, the Bush administration's determination to help India in its moves to become a major world power in the 21st century.
Post World War II, modification of an entire international regime (namely, the NPT) to make an exception of one country-India-is without a parallel. Therefore, this development should be perceived in its total international perspective and not narrowly as an Indo-US deal in the aftermath of the Cold War era of mutual distrust. The US, as well as a majority of nations of the industrial world, now see it in their interest to make available to India high technology-including civil nuclear technology. The Americans have to abide by their national procedures but the deal is much beyond a bilateral one and involves the global community. It would be an unpardonable folly to reject this opportunity.
K. Subrahmanyam is a former secretary to the Government of India and a strategic affairs expert.