Wednesday, July 23, 2008

India Comes in from the Cold

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India has been suffering as a nuclear rogue state over the last several years, as it has not signed the non-proliferation agreements and has in fact built nuclear weaponry – from their perspective, to ensure parity with neighbors Pakistan and especially China. India has a policy of never using nuclear weapons offensively but only if nuclear missiles are hurled its way – seems very cold war, doesn’t it?

But the Bush administration has been looking for a way to fold India back into the international batter and has succeeded in pacting with the country to ensure that India primarily pursue civilian uses of nuclear energy and accept house calls from the International Atomic Energy Agency. This is an agreement that has been struck with other countries that aims to open trade routes in nuclear materials and technology. (Thorium, which India has in abundance, may well prove interesting going forward. Look here for some more information.)

The vote on the treaty in the United State was fast and easy (with just a little mischief in the form of India having to align its views on Iran with those of the U.S. A similar agreement with Russia has stalled over the big bear’s meddling in Iran).

The vote in India’s parliament yesterday looks like it was a near thing, with the Communists completely out of sorts. This popped out in the coverage:

In the end the vote was won comfortably – with a majority of 19 – partly because MPs [members of parliament] were brought in from hospital on trolleys and others convicted for murder were released from prison to attend parliament.

Were, um, a lot of MPs in prison for murder? And still voting? If true, the wild west is alive and well in the east. Nineteen votes seems a pretty comfortable margin, but that’s in an assembly of 534 members. A lot of arm twisting likely took place. (This was actually a confidence vote – if the ruling Congress Party had lost, it would have had to call elections and that would have been the end of the treaty. This was a big worry, and the party put on a literal fireworks show when the vote went its way.)

However, there might have been more than arm twisting going on:

For the first time in the annals of Indian Parliament, the Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh] had to table his reply on the confidence motion as the determined Opposition including the Left parties raised slogans demanding the response of the Government to use money power to secure MPs to win the confidence vote.

In other words, money crossed hands to secure votes – or so says the opposition. Investigation to follow – if this goes badly, it still seems unlikely to derail the vote, even if it ought to.

There’s still more to come before it’s a done deal:

The deal has to be approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which monitors sales of nuclear technology. Most big powers have backed the deal, although Pakistan has raised objections.

Pakistan’s reaction is understandable under the circumstances and if parliament is really as described, the IAEA will likely take a hard look, but in sum, this is good news even within a disquieting context. Both the U.S. and India affirm that India has a clean proliferation record.

Better news would be India abandoning its nuclear arms – Brazil, for one, had to do this to get on the good side of the non-proliferation argument. We assume that India’s rapidly rising economic and geopolitical standings motivate the U.S. desire to get this issue out of the way and to accept terms that are less than ideal.

Let’s see where the IAEA takes this.

Picture of an Indian jail. It’s not as though American politicians avoid this fate – we’re looking at you, James Traficant (House member from Ohio who ran for office from his jail cell in 2004 and lost) – but it adds an interesting wrinkle, doesn’t it?

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting, James Traficant was a Dem. And so is Ted Kennedy. But he never got jailed for what happened to Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick.

We need to remember history the way it was, not the way it's being revised.

Finrod said...

What's all this partisan stuff? From what I've seen on the net, nuclear power has a broad support base, spanning both wings of the political spectrum.

Ray Lightning said...

"Better news would be India abandoning its nuclear arms"

Please.. We Indians are sick of this hypocrisy.

India has been calling umpteen times for complete nuclear disarmament in the world. The cold war is over. Why do you still keep those bombs ? Let's destroy nuclear bombs forever.

We cannot accept a world where select powers like US and China still carry nuclear weapons.

Is this clear ?

Ray Lightning said...

About criminals getting elected to Indian parliament, here are the figures. 120 members out of 543 (22.1%) in the Indian parliament have criminal cases against them.

This is what you get when 50% of the country is illiterate and mired in poverty.

But atleast, Indian democracy functions like clockwork. There has never been a military coup or authoritarian rule imposed on the country (except for a brief period of emergency during 1975-77)

India is the only example in the developing world that democracy indeed works. Maybe, that is because we had the world's most ancient democracies.

Anonymous said...

Ray Lightning, far more criminals exist in the US Senate and House of Representatives, but few of them have actually been convicted of any crime. How can Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, and their like be convicted when the crime that they support (and you all know what that is) has been made legal? Are politicians in the Indian Parliament hypocritical? I would wager that is so to a far lesser extent than Pelosi, Kucinich, Boxer, Clinton, Kerry and all the rest here in the US.

And by the way, NONE of the names above are really enthusiatic nuclear power supporters (indeed, even in Teddy's case, wind mills off Cape Cod are no good because they might despoil his view).

The only good Dem is a defeated Dem.

And yes, let's take weapons grade HEU and plutonium out of the bombs and downblend them for use in nuclear reactors. Why can't we give some of our bomb grade material to India in a downblended form for its civilian nuclear energy program? What in God's name is wrong with that?

I also agree with Ray that so long as China has nuclear arms, India has a right to possess them as a means of deterrence. For the Dems to insist that the Indians disarm their nuclear weapons platforms leaves them vulnerable to the Red Chinese. Don't forget - China is STILL communist, India is NOT.

Mark Flanagan said...

To Ray: Thanks for the extra information. I guess the American attitude has been that criminality in elected life lessens an overall respect for the rule of law. Maybe India is a good case study for the truth of that attitude.

To anon: I could just as easily have mentioned Duke Cunningham.

This is really a non-partisan blog. We're interested in politics because of its involvement with nuclear energy issues and for occasional snark, but we want to stay away from the foul swill that partisanship and ideological purity invites. Accept that energy issues affect all of us and that's not so hard to do.