Triumphant India Policy

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Pickering and Frank Wisner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When the House of Representatives votes today on civil nuclear cooperation with India, President Bush, marching hand-in-hand with Congress, will be a step closer to a foreign policy trophy commensurable with Nixon's opening to China: a flourishing strategic partnership with India. Cementing this partnership would overcome decades of unrealistic and futile attempts to force India to abandon its nuclear arsenal while sandwiched between two nuclear-armed rivals.

The House International Relations Committee earlier voted by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 37-5 to approve the civil nuclear cooperation bill (H.R. 5682), and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a companion bill by 16-2. The terms of the legislation have been scrupulously crafted in a collaborative endeavor between the executive and legislative branches to answer nonproliferation concerns, among other issues.

Civil nuclear cooperation with India would catalyze alignment of the two great democracies for the 21st century. Prospects for enactment are sanguine during the 106th Congress. It demonstrates how much a president can accomplish in foreign and national security affairs if Congress gets a ticket for the take-off as well as for the landing, to borrow from former Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, Michigan Republican.

Virtually every member of Congress understands the centrality of India to U.S. national security interests. India appreciates the horror of international terrorism because it has suffered on a scale reminiscent of September 11, 2001: hundreds of casualties recently in Mumbai from bombs planted on six commuter trains; an attack on India's parliament; and recurrent horrors in Kashmir.

When India's prime minister addressed the U.S. Congress last year, he vowed: "We must fight terrorism wherever it exists, because terrorism anywhere threatens democracy everywhere." During a return trip to India, President Bush responded: "He is right. And so America and India are allies in the war against terror."

India generally supports the U.S. over Iran's nuclear ambitions, peace in the Middle East, reconstruction of Afghanistan, and spread of democracy in Nepal and elsewhere. The two countries are co-founders of the Global Democracy Initiative.

India is a secular democracy, featuring religious pluralism. It is a majority Hindu nation with a Muslim president, a Sikh prime minister, and a Christian leader of its largest political party. Its permanent interests on energy, free enterprise, the environment and nonproliferation, and a balance of power in Asia converge with those of the United States.

The U.S-India strategic partnership has been frustrated more than 30 years by a rigid statutory prohibition on sharing civil nuclear technology with India, whereas sharing is permitted with China and other less friendly or responsible nations. …