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?