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US-India Deal Part of Nuclear Equation Involving China, Iran

The United States has pledged to provide India with nuclear technology and fuel under a just-concluded agreement.  However, the final deal must still be ratified by the two nation's legislatures, and approved by the consortium governing the international nuclear trade.  As VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, some controversy still clings to the U.S.-India nuclear deal.

India has been a member of the nuclear club for more than 30 years after first conducting a test it called a "peaceful nuclear explosion." That prompted the U.S. and Canada to cut any nuclear cooperation with India and, say many analysts, sparked creation of international institutions and pacts to halt nuclear proliferation.

But now the U.S. and India have concluded a deal under which India will get U.S. nuclear fuel and technology, even though India has not renounced nuclear testing and, like its nuclear neighbor and archrival Pakistan, still refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Gary Samore was senior director for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls at the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. He says China's growing power was a key factor in the decision to grant India special treatment in nuclear help. "The president in particular was persuaded that India would work with the United States to contain and balance the rising power of China if an exception was made."

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Non-Proliferation Policy Education Center, says the administration concern about Indo-Iranian military cooperation was also a factor in the deal.

"Now it's one thing for India to have diplomatic relations.  Lots of countries have that.  But formal military-to-military ties with working groups and the like -- I don't know of any other country that does, not even Russia.  I mean, they sell them things, but they don't sit around figuring out how to do naval exercises with a foreign navy." 

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns plays down stories about Indian and Iranian cooperation.

"Now, I know there is some connection between India and Iran militarily. Our advice, consistent with the Security Council sanctions, would be to diminish a country's military relationship with Iran. But I'm not sure, as an objective observer, I would say that there's a burgeoning relationship."

But Sokolski says the Indo-Iranian military cooperation could be a key stumbling block in getting final Congressional approval for the pact. "Well, one way to deal with that is to say, 'Okay, we approve the deal, we're ready to go, but one condition: you've got to give us an answer that we like, you've got to renunciate these ties with regard to the formal military-to-military connections.'  I don't know if Congress will do that.  There are some who want to.  And we'll see what happens."

The deal must also be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the international body that governs the nuclear technology trade.  Gary Samore says that in the end China will reluctantly go along with the agreement. "Even China, I think, wants to have a good relationship with India, and recognizes that if it blocks consensus in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to allow India to benefit from this agreement, Delhi will be very, very angry, and that will damage bilateral relations between India and China. So I think the N.S.G. will go along, even though some countries may try to delay a decision a bit longer than the Bush administration hopes."

However, Henry Sokolski says, Beijing may try to wring concessions out of Washington in return for signing off on the U.S.-Indian deal.

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