Some Perspectives on the Nuclear Deal

September 11, 2007

The Indo-US Nuclear deal offers Unhindered access to advanced technologies (not just in the Nuclear field). For India this deal is important to end the technology isolation of the last few decades. We need latest technology to sustain ourselves at over 10% economic growth for the next 25 years.

What does the US gets in doing this, as it appears it wants India to grow? Why does it want this? Why Now? An altruistic United States? No way! To answer that, we need to understand what's the pressure the US is going through currently. At the moment, the US is going through very difficult times in the short period of sole super power status(since 1991). Perhaps its international appeal is at its lowest ebb, and one of the biggest reasons for this is its low credibility in the Muslim world.

From that angle it makes sense to get India with its second largest Muslim population into its embrace and the added pressure for US to do so now is that only Congress can do this deal. If the same is done by BJP, it will be seen as an anti-Muslim deal, hence the rush and push by US. Also note US has seen Indian political resilience all the way from 1962 (first real awakening of threat of external aggression),1965 (2nd Indo-Pak war), 1971(a watershed year in Indian diplomacy, the single incident where India played a decisive role at International level), 1974 (Hawkish India wanting to crash land on the International scene, but it miserably backfired, which irked already hurt US pride, and thus set off technological isolation, thus creating perfect reasons for self dependence), 1979 (Opposition to USSR on Afghanistan invasion and occupation)1984 (Operation Blue Star, the first serious non military threat for break up of India), 1987(India's Vietnam), 1993(second major chance for country bread up), 1991(first steps towards some serious economic corrections) , 1998 (really shook the world and India truly arrived at international stage).

This, coupled with growing economic clout, makes sense for anyone to be good friends with India and better still if they can get India's backing for what ever they want to do the world over. In 2004 after the Tsunami, India used its Naval power meaningfully for the first time. This still has a huge impact in this part of the world, imagine Indian warships off Sri Lankan and Indonesian coasts within a day of the incident and that too when India itself was impacted.

After each and every incident, we need to understand how the powers of the day viewed India, it started with pity, then fear, then awe, then respect. The world saw us through the above prism and how we conducted ourselves. They have definitely seen India pulling itself through these crises and putting up a united front. Political democracy is well entrenched within India.

Coupled with the above, India has been consistently contributing to UN forces all over the world all the way from Korean War (1953), thus strengthening the fundamental concept of UN and world bodies. In general, even under adverse conditions India never allowed spreading of Nuclear technology. That is truly something remarkable, given all the hawkish nature of some of the right and left wingers we never allowed this. Why? I mean its not all that difficult to start a clandestine operation and sustain it, and we did have many opportunities to do this, but there is something inherent in the system which prevented this. Definitely the world has taken notice of this. The basic fear of Nuclear fuel suppliers, which is proliferation, is proven beyond doubt not to apply to India(We have had N-Tech for 3+ decades now), but here again there is a breaking point which could see India running something similar to Khan-mart. We can and do independent business (eg. business with Iran, Myanmar, some of the African republics, Cuba, some of the South American countries) and this worries the West.

Having said the above, we need to look at the need for support from world powers. Why should be they be so nice to us? The world also recognizes that India has to feed its 1 billion+ population else there will be serious social repercussions. They do not want to see 27 new countries. They had enough of that with the fall of USSR followed by Yugoslavia. To avoid this fate, India needs to develop fast economically and technology can help do that but cannot entirely solve the problem. We still need people to buy goods and services, i.e markets and the West can provide that. Also, the West want to spread their risk - currently they are exposed to China alone.

To summarize, there are 3 major reasons to help India
- its ability to pursue an independent foreign policy (India has a mind of its own, which is not to easy to understand and that does not give the predictability which the West wants)
- Fear of break up of India, which surprisingly is not much discussed within India, but those who see the diversity are definitely alarmed about it.
- Spreading of business risks

Binding India with treaties and deals will help to firmly keep it in the fold. The world knows India will never rescind any international agreement/treaty once we agree, and it has seen each successive Government from different shades of the political spectrum sticking to the deals, One must credit our politicians at least for this. Imagine each Government coming in and scrapping all the deals from previous Governments, we still would have been struck in the 1960s.

A mid 30's IT professional , with interests and opinions on Politics, Economics and general life.
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September 12, 2007
02:42 AM

"... US is going through very difficult times... its international appeal is at its lowest ebb, and one of the biggest reasons for this is its low credibility in the Muslim world."

OF COURSE, THAT MUST BE IT. Because if you're not liked by Muslims, then you know you're awful. I mean, being liked by Muslims should be the primary raison d'etre for all of us. Because the Muslim community are clearly the most saintly, pious and tolerant community ever to have existed on the face of the Earth. So you know you're doing something wrong, when the Muslims don't like you.

And we know this, because so many Muslims tell us so. Clearly their piety is only exceeded by their amazing humility. What other conclusion could one draw?

And not only do so many Muslims tell us so, but even Leftists like SeethepalliRaviKrishna tell us so. And this is why when their fellow Soviet socialist comrades were under attack in Afghanistan, our Indian socialist brothers extended no hand to them. And this is why the Soviets were bled in Afghanistan, and why our Indian socialist brothers stand orphaned today.

Not willing to own up to their noteworthy role in the demise of the Soviet-led socialist bloc, our Indian socialists prefer to dwell on blaming the Americans. Because as you know, Indian socialists can do no wrong. They are never shirkers or cowards or traitors -- not even to their Soviet socialist brothers.

That's why Indian socialists can claim great credibility amongst the international socialist fraternity. Because their idea of international fraternity is getting others to do for them, and not to themselves stick up for others (which would require effort and sacrifice). Very shrewd people, our Indian socialists.

Wouldn't you agree on that description of yourself, SeethepalliRaviKrishna? Aren't you shrewd?

September 12, 2007
10:25 PM

the article is trying to put forward one of the possible reasons for US to lend its support on N deal and exploring why it is pushing it now, there is nothing in the article to say that we need to appease the Muslim, not sure what is being said in the comment #1.

But it does make sense for US to push to get the deal done with Congress Govt in power. With BJP it would be little bit harder for US to get the deal as BJP would ask for more concessions.

I do not agree that anyone can bind countries in treaties, look what happened to Germany after 1st world war, it was feeling the pressure of the surrender treaty, and that only spurred it to break away. What is required is a constant engagement to understand each other's changing positions. Even if India signs the deal and sticks to all its requirement that does not put it under US fold, we need to ask this question when we signed defense agreement for Soviets and then Russia, did we agree to toe their line ? . A resurgent India should reach out to other like minded countries, which will help to take care of its interests and in the process if we have to shake hand with US so be it, we will also shake hands with China, Iran and Russia, that has been the sprit of independent foreign policy. Criticizing just because we shake hand with US is shortsightedness and at the same time just because we have a new friend in US does not mean we have to ignore traditional friends like Russia, the single most visible sign of independent policy is when we pursue our best interests with all countries.

September 13, 2007
04:45 AM

You guys need to think from higher perspective, this deal is definitely being signed, all this hula-bulla is to show that the pseudo-democratic ways of India, the other day I saw a program where most of the famous MP's have no clue about the N-deal or 123 or Hyde act, it is only the select few, numbering about 100 or so who know what is happening and the rest simply follow them like a herd of sheep, it is in that context we need to see Ambassador Sen's remarks of "head-less-chickens".

September 13, 2007
05:24 AM

Ravi: The Indo-US Nuclear deal offers Unhindered access to advanced technologies (not just in the Nuclear field). For India this deal is important to end the technology isolation of the last few decades. We need latest technology to sustain ourselves at over 10% economic growth for the next 25 years

Chandra: Could you kindly elaborate as to what specific technologies that you are referring to here that will add to GDP growth?


Ravi Seethepalli
September 13, 2007
11:28 AM

Comment #1 (Sanjay): I am not out here to state my political leanings, so I will not comment on your query, but I would reiterate, that I was trying to explore and put forward a view point, that for US the current political boss offer the best bet to see this deal successfully signed and sealed. And for the record I am for the deal.

Comment#2 (Raj) : Binding countries in treaties will in short term help some countries to leverage their advanced positions either technological or economical as a tool to "contain" or "Curtail" their growth in the short term, look at the way NPT has been come into affect right after India exploded its first device in 1974, that is a form of a treaty among nations who have the technology to deny others the same technology while they were progressing because of the technology. I do agree with your comment that India need to shake hands with all countries in that context, in fact I did not even state my position on the deal, which I am going to do in my next article, where I will explore some of the reasons to go for the deal, before concluding.

Comment#3 (Deep) Agreed not all will have equal understanding the very purpose of putting across our opinions is to bring in the necessary awareness, in fact for this I credit the left parties, because they are at least bringing some debate, so that when our grandchildren read India's history they will know that decisions are debated and are not blindly accepted.

Comment#4 (Chandra) In my next article I briefly explored the question which you raised, simple example we have to be subjected to so much of technology denials over the past 3 decades, from rocket science, radars, combat aircrafts to medicine, agriculture, power generation, N-deal is up there in terms of advanced technology if rest of the world is willing to share this advanced technology, then there is definitely a higher chance that they will also share technology in other areas.

I thank you all for posting your comments, they certainly enrich this discussion.

Suresh Anand
September 13, 2007
11:44 AM

This is an excellent piece of writing and, I believe, right on the mark. I agree with each and every bit of views put forward by Ravi Krishna. I am surprised however that he has not taken the China angle into account.

In my view, the main reason US is so very keen for the deal to go through, even at terms which are tilted in India's favour all the way, is because of the potential of India as a counterweight to the rapidly developing China clout in the world economic as well as power play. As far India, the developing closer relationship with the US is all in our favour. With all its flaws, I am most impressed with the way the Indian Leadership is playing its cards in this game. At least thus far, extreme care has been taken not to sacrifice our special relationship with Russia, and the developng relationship with China. In the very long run, I believe, China and India are going to become great allies in order to develop the kind of clout today enjoyed by the West in the world politics. I am sure US is aware of it and this is another reason for it to try its best to forge close ties with India. India needs to be extremely careful in playing its cards at this cruicial juncture.

I am very disappointed by the largely negative commenst posted by the readers thus far. It seems the readership is mostly fromthe BJP camp. Very sad and backward looking indeed!

September 13, 2007
02:28 PM


Most of the heads you mentioned are expense heads (Aircraft, Radars, Rockets etc). GDP negative...

On the other hand, I cannot recall any technology denials in the area of medicine, agriculture and power generation, GDP Positive

Looking forward to your next post.


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