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India’s failure to sign the Test Ban Treaty a Bush problem

March 8, 2008

Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher last week visited New Delhi with a sharp reminder: it’s now or never for the Indo-U.S. Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which has been stalled since India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to garner the votes from within his own coalition to pass the deal.

Washington is warning that given the U.S. presidential campaign season, India has until June to complete all the steps required to get the agreement — which provides for civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries without India having to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty — before Congress for a yes or no vote. Having invested immense political capital in the deal, the Bush administration is keen to see it completed, and has been quietly pressuring New Delhi to expedite matters. Last week, former Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns publicly asked India to take a “courageous decision” in view of the “short timelines”. Before that, on February 20, U.S. Senators Chuck Hagel, John Kerry and Joe Biden has visited New Delhi with the same message.

With opponents of the deal — mainly the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party — digging their heels in, the June deadline may prompt the government to tell its leftist allies to take a hike. Riding high on a popular budget announced last week — which substantially reduced income tax and waived $150 billion worth of loans owed by small and marginal farmers — the government is in a good position to face elections. Politicians know that the average citizen cares little about the nuclear deal, as the CPI (M) learned last September: While the CPI (M) was focusing its attention on holding up the nuclear deal in New Delhi, in Bengal, the state it governs, villagers angry at food shortages and corruption broke into a riot. Many CPI (M) cadres were assaulted in riots over the following weeks. Most Indians may, in fact, be glad to get the nuclear deal out of the way, so that politicians can get on with working on issues more important in the minds of the citizenry.

Washington’s position may harden has prompted India’s power brokers to burn the midnight oil in order to meet the deadlines. This requires concluding, by the end of this month, an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to regulate India’s civilian nuclear energy program and to ensure that it remains separate from its nuclear weapons program. By May, they must secure an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls international trade in nuclear materials, to rules that preclude supplying states that are not signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and India’s failure to sign the Test Ban Treaty will not go down easily with some of its members. India reiterated its support for universal nuclear disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva last month, and proposed a seven-point agenda. Getting an NSG waiver will be tricky, but the U.S. has assured India of its support in convincing skeptics.

Don’t Nuke The Deal The Left has sounded its war conches. It has issued threats against the government at a time when India is negotiating a nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That’s a UN body where China, too, is represented. The safeguards agreement will set the terms of India’s nuclear trade with the world, not just with the US. Why, then, is the Left kicking up such a fuss?

‘Drop N-deal if panel says so’

NEW DELHI, March 8: The CPI-M today said the government should take the next step on the Indo-US nuclear deal only on the basis of the UPA-Left Committee’s findings and should drop it if it is not approved by the panel.
“The talks are going on even today in Vienna. Whether our concerns will be addressed in these talks will be known only when this committee meets again.

Indian minister rejects snap polls amid US nuke deal trouble

NEW DELHI (AFP) — India’s foreign minister Saturday ruled out early polls after new threats by the government’s communist allies to withdraw their support if the ruling party concludes a nuclear pact with Washington.

Describing the leftist bloc’s warning as a “known position,” Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “I do not visualise that anybody is thinking of early elections.

New Delhi, March 8: India’s negotiations with the IAEA for a country-specific safeguards agreement is complete and the UPA-Left committee will meet “shortly” to decide on the future course of action on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday.

Leading Indian opposition parties sense ‘blackmailing’ underneath U.S. pressure on nuclear agreements. India was recently told that failing to fall in line with the United States could jeopardise its nuclear prospects. Analysts find it significant to note that while setting a deadline to India to process the agreements, the United States has reminded India of their ‘partnership’ in dealing with India’s neighbours in South Asia. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Under Secretary of State named Sri Lanka and Nepal in this context, according to a PTI report on Saturday.

Blackmail is the perception caused by US foreign policy tactics. The India-US Nuclear agreement is the latest example of what the US calls Diplomacy. Yes, there is a lot at stake with this nuclear deal. Pressure mounts as Bush ends his term and releases the world from his grip of fear and loathing. The US makes it clear if India conducts a nuclear test without signing this deal, US will take its nuclear toys back and go elsewhere. This is a school yard tussle … Bush wants a last hurrah for his legacy.

“It will also send a powerful message to nuclear outlaws such as Iran: if you play by the rules, as India has, you will be rewarded; if you do not, you will face sanctions and isolation.”

India must meet a May 2008 deadline to get an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group who controls international nuclear trade in lieu of signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. If the US deal is not signed by June 2008, India risks a complete re-negotiation by a new incoming administration … less favorable to India. India is scrambling amid internal conflict over the deal. The Communist Party of India opposes the deal and has political capital from the poor and disenfranchised voters who care more about their tax burden, food shortage, local corruption and economic survival.

 

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3 Comments
  1. March 28, 2008 4:42 am

    Given the U.S. history of favouring their close competition Pakistan, it’s a game that could break any which way.

  2. March 13, 2008 8:01 pm

    Indian political trends want to nix the US blackmail method of negotiating. The CPI(M)would be happier to deal with Russia than the US. I just foresee them trading for a different flavor of blackmail.

  3. March 10, 2008 8:41 pm

    You missed one important part of this. The Russians were in line to sell them four reactors and arrange for fuel supply. The wonder is weapons sales were enough to give the U.S. some pull : especially when tech support is apt to be pulled on a whim.

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