Author : Vikram Sood

Originally Published 2005-12-07 07:13:33 Published on Dec 07, 2005
A single deft move in the 18th century secured the British empire in India many advantages over the advancing Russians. By sending five English dray horses along with a blue velvet upholstered coach to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore, upstream from Kutch, the British discovered that the Indus was navigable all the way up.
Empire's new clothes
A single deft move in the 18th century secured the British empire in India many advantages over the advancing Russians. By sending five English dray horses along with a blue velvet upholstered coach to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore, upstream from Kutch, the British discovered that the Indus was navigable all the way up. They were given access to Afghanistan through his territories by a grateful Maharaja. The irony is that the British were only returning a gift Ranjit Singh had sent King William IV. Not a single shot was fired but the empire had gained.

The opening gambits for empire-building at that time were to flatter, cajole, persuade and, if this did not work, then coerce and control and finally occupy. One hundred and seventy years later, these tactics - access to markets and resources - remain unchanged, although the new empire has shown a greater propensity to violence as a first option. The wooing started a few years ago when opinions began to filter through about a new power rising in the east - democratic India.

National intelligence estimates predicted a bright future for India. Others predicted that India would challenge China; that maybe India ought to be a member of the UNSC and of so many other exclusive power centres of the world; that India could be trusted with American weaponry. It could even be given American civilian nuclear technology to help it meet its fast-growing energy needs. We took the bait.

Nuclear experts and scientists like Martin Zuberi, A. Gopalakrishnan and Bharat Karnad, strategic analysts like Brahma Chellaney and Siddharth Varadarajan have written extensively about their misgivings on the Indo-US agreement of July 18, 2005. Criticism is about what we have signed, how the agreement will be fulfilled and what India has gained. These experts have argued that India has derived no benefits from this deal. At the same time there are those in the US, like Robert Einhorn, who do not want the deal to go through because this would dilute the NPT regime that is so close to US foreign policy beliefs. Having flattered and cajoled India to sign on the dotted line, US coercion was evident at the time of the Iran vote. Control of events is sought through the various steps that are now being spelt out. Steps that India must carry out before Americans try to deliver anything that they have promised.

India has agreed to identify and separate civilian and military nuclear facilities and programmes in a phased manner. It has agreed to place all its civilian nuclear sites under IAEA inspections; adhere to the rules of NSG and missile control technology regimes without being a member of these groups., It has agreed to adhere to IAEA's additional protocol that will subject India's entire civil nuclear fuel cycle to international monitoring - something which the five nuclear weapon States do not allow for themselves. Finally, and this is very crucial also, India has promised to continue the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear tests. As for the process for all this, we say 'you first' but Brothers Burns and Joseph, America's pointsmen, have repeatedly made it quite clear that we must jump through the hoop first. The US had to be able to see what was happening, understand what was going on and agree with what was going on. So said Nicholas Burns in his testimony to the US Congress. Translated, it means total control. Joseph clarified that the kind of arrangements the Nuclear- Five had with IAEA would not be granted to India.

Only when India, enticed by assistance for commercial nuclear power, has carried out a complete emasculation of its nuclear establishment and given proof of this, will the US government be able to move the US Congress to amend its 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act. Convincing other members of control groups like the NSG is another problem because members like China and South Africa have expressed their opposition to allowing India access to the 200-odd hi-tech items.

The two main items on offer in this deal are access to US defence industry and 'permission', as it were, to spend $ 5 billion for this. The other is the offer to sell civilian nuclear technology for India's energy requirements. GE, which built Tarapur, also a prototype, has not built another reactor in the last 30 years. They tried to sell reactors to China in 2004 but the Chinese baulked at the idea as they were looking for full technology and engineering.

The American writer on development issues, Patrick Doherty, recently made an interesting observation that as part of America's new energy policy nuclear energy was an important component. And that "the Bush administration has worked out an agreement with the Indian government to share civilian nuclear technology. That agreement, in effect, allows India to be America's lab rat, on which we will test the unproven next generation of nuclear technology". Thus, it is quite a choice - either outmoded technology that does not suit Indian conditions or new untested technology.

The argument in favour of closer ties with the US is based on the assumption that only the US can help us become what we want to be. We forget that years of democracy have not saved us from sanctions while dictatorships have been rewarded and strengthened by purveyors of democracy. Some of us are dreamy eyed with illusions of grandeur but without understanding the character of the US empire.

The US has spent huge sums of money and effort to maintain global primacy. One has to be incredibly naïve to assume that the US will let any alternative pillar of power to emerge. Indians must understand that US policies are not what we want them to be or dream they will be.

Similarly, why should our policies suit other power interests? What we need to know and understand is why the US, fixated on global dominance as it is and known to be a hard bargainer, a country that has made non-proliferation an article of faith, is today willing to dilute this 30-year stance. What is the US getting and what is it that we have promised? Surely, the people are entitled to know.

As it is, the US worries about the rise of China and another power centre in Asia would create complications. If it were looking for India to challenge China, then it would clearly do some of the following things. It would have supported India's efforts to UNSC membership and India's desire to join the Generation IV International Forum (to design the next generation commercial nuclear power reactors) or the nuclear-fusion consortium that is to build and run the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France.

Instead, it offers India outmoded weaponry and untested civilian nuclear technology in return for circumscribing, forever, India's nuclear weapons programme through imposed restrictions, safeguards and restrictions of fuel supplies that do not apply to NWS.

There is, however, a problem and a hope. America has moved from the days of "bipartisan age of narcissism and hubris", as Walter Russell Mead describes the decade of euphoria after the Berlin Wall came down. Today, that hubris is leading to nemesis. The presidency is beleaguered. In this situation, the US Congress, belligerent about various issues, may not give the US president what he wants. Therein lies our hope.

The author is Advisor to Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Source: Hindustan Times, New Delhi, December 7, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.

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Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood

Vikram Sood is Advisor at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Sood is the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) — India’s foreign intelligence agency. ...

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