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Nuclear Undivided Family

Shantanu Guha Ray writes in Tehelka:

If you thought New Delhi was bending over backwards to accommodate Washington, think again. For the US, India may be the goose that lays the golden egg.

While flying to India from the US some months back, Saikat Chaudhuri, a management professor at Wharton Business School, met a General lectric executive headed for talks with Indian bureaucrats. He was going to discuss deals to build power plants — both nuclear and thermal powered. The GE executive told Chaudhuri he had already made several inconsequential trips to India, but was upbeat. Once the 123 Agreement was signed between the two nations, the potentially huge Indian market would open up. That is Washington’s essential bet, which is why it is bending over backwards to woo India. The collateral benefits to the United States of a strategic partnership with India will far outweigh the classical risks arising from a breach in the existing non-proliferation regime. “He was preparing for the market that would open up with the Indo-US nuclear deal. Ultimately, economics determines everything,” says Chaudhuri.

While all the sound and fury at home has hinged on whether India should be tying its destiny so intrinsically with the United States, little attention has been paid on how and why India has become such a flavour of the day in the US. After all, India’s formative instincts and psychology have been anti-American. Even though officially non-aligned, India sailed along with the erstwhile Soviet Union and its worldview. And the US forever wanted to “restrict” India’s role on the world stage because Washington perceived it as a “strategic threat” in the region. So what happened? With the collapse of the Soviet empire, the world changed too suddenly in too many ways. India repositioned and recalibrated its policies to the new realities. The process is still ongoing. The nuclear deal is not the result of some overnight policy flip-flop; nor is it about the nuclear deal alone. Indeed, the first steps in giving a new tone to the Indo-US relationship — greater trust, expanding consultation on a range of issues, greater cooperation in a whole slew of sectors from markets to defence to strategy — were taken by a set that is now baying for the UPA’s blood — the BJP.

It was in the Atal Behari Vajpayee era that relations with Uncle Sam began to register a quantum shift. Political pressures and the possibility of the ruling UPA becoming a minority government notwithstanding, corporate captains and policy makers form the biggest cheering squad of 123. Last year, when the deal was still on the negotiating table, two big delegations — adding up to 218 corporations — from the United States visited India offering a bagful of goodies — from Lockheed Martin fighter jets, to uranium from South Dakota to Toshiba-Westinghouse nuclear reactors. And this was happening after Washington had already expressed its rank displeasure over New Delhi’s commitment to the $9-billion pipeline connecting the sub-continent to Iranian gas fields.

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