Dealing with India's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 28, 2008 | Go to article overview

Dealing with India's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions


Byline: Teresita C. Schaffer, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Teresita C. Schaffer

In July 2005, President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the outlines of a groundbreaking agreement that would bring India out of its nuclear isolation, enhance its participation in the global nonproliferation effort, and cement the emerging partnership between the world's two largest democracies. After a three-year ride punctuated by great controversy in both Delhi and Washington, the IAEA and the NSG have now signed off on implementing this agreement, and the Bush administration has submitted to Congress the materials required for the final approval of the U.S.-India bilateral cooperation agreement.

There are three main arguments for the agreement: the geostrategic significance of our emerging relationship with India; India's massive future energy needs; and India's excellent record in safeguarding nuclear technology, which offers the hope of bringing India fully into global nonproliferation efforts.

Strategic significance of India: With its growing economy and powerful military position, India has become a global partner for the United States and is shaping the future of Asia. Indian and U.S. interests converge on issues vital to us. India has taken a strong stand against international terrorism. It is one of the largest economic contributors to reconstruction in Afghanistan. It is the primary resident naval force in the Indian Ocean, and works with us to maintain the security of the sea lanes through which most of the world's oil trade travels. With increasingly vibrant relations with Japan and Southeast Asia, and a pattern of engagement and rivalry with China, India will be one of the major forces shaping the future of Asia, a region that is pivotal for U.S. security.

These common interests provide a solid foundation for a long-term partnership based on both democratic values and geopolitical interests. But despite the tremendous gains in U.S.-India relations in the past two decades, our inability to work even with the safeguarded civilian parts of India's nuclear program have impeded the kind of cooperation we would like. This agreement has transformed the landscape, opening the possibility of a real collaboration in shaping a global and regional balance of power that protects both U.S. and Indian interests.

Energy and the environment: India's energy demand is expected to grow 4.6 percent per year for the next two decades. The whole world has an interest in helping India deal with this relentless expansion. Nuclear energy currently supplies only about 3 percent of India's overall power supply. But with an economy growing at 7 percent to 9 percent per year, every potential source of power is crucial. …

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