US-India Nuclear Cooperation

singh_at_white_house.jpgLolly, lolly get your nuclear fuel here.I hope Indian PM Manmohan Singh travels light, because he returns to India laden with goodies.During his state visit to the US, Singh wrung a promise from President Bush to:

... seek agreement from Congress to adjust US laws and policies, and [to] work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India ...
The full text of joint statement and the press conference with Bush and Singh are both available on-line.The Bush Administration is prohibited by US law and its international obligations from providing civil nuclear assistance to India, because New Delhi refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In fact, the international obligation in question -- the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group -- was created as a response to India's 1974 "peaceful" nuclear explosion.The Bush Administration is eagerly courting India because ... well, frankly, I don't know. I am told the intellectual argument for the Bush Administration policy is reflected in Ashley Tellis' India as a New Global Power: An Action Agenda for the United States.Tellis argues the "change in approach" arose "from three evolving perceptions within the Bush administration":
First, the administration had come to realize that India would not give up its nuclear weapons so long as various regional adversaries continued to possess comparable capabilities. The fact that the administration initially viewed both of Indias antagonists Pakistan and China with considerable suspicion only made senior U.S. officials more sympathetic to New Delhis predicament.Second, the administration was now of the understanding that Indias nuclear weapons did not pose a threat to U.S. security and the United States larger geopolitical interests, and could in certain circumstances actually advance American strategic objectives in Asia and beyond. The administrations own antipathy to nuclear arms control agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (which happened to dovetail with Indian interests on these issues), coupled with its strong expectation of an eventual renewal of great-power competition, allowed both realist and neoconservative factions within the administration to take a more relaxed view of New Delhis emerging nuclear capabilities.Third, the administration now appreciated that the range of technological resources associated with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems that were present in India in both the public and private sectors posed a far more serious threat to American safetywere these resources to be leaked, whether deliberately or inadvertently, to hostile regimes or nonstate actorsthan New Delhis ownership of various nuclear assets. These perceptions, which became dominant in administration thinking in regard to India post-9/11, made tightening the Indian export control regime far more important from the viewpoint of increasing U.S. security than leaning on the Indian state to cap or roll back its strategic programs.From these three perceptions grew the conviction that the United States ought to focus primarily on safeguarding Indias tangible and intangible WMD capabilities, even as Washington struggled to find ways of accepting New Delhis nuclear weaponry within the constraining framework of the existing international nonproliferation order.
Dana Milbank and Dafna Linzer at the Washington Post have a story about the agreement and its implication for the global nonproliferation regime.-- posted by Jeffrey Lewis.Update: Scott Gearity has more.
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