If Henry Kissinger is right - that there are no permanent
alliances, only permanent national interests - then the US and India
should be in for a long friendship.
Yet Mr. Kissinger's doctrine may provide a cautionary tale for
the US, particularly when it comes to India's nuclear program.
In 11th-hour negotiations to formally accept its status as a
nuclear power, India has signaled that it is not afraid to stand up
to the world's sole superpower if its national interests are at
In the lead up to President Bush's first trip to India, which
begins Wednesday, both countries tamped down expectations of a final
deal and continued to work on something Bush and Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh could sign before Bush's departure on Saturday for
As the fierce debate over India's long-secret nuclear program
shows - with American critics calling it a breach in global
nonproliferation, and Indian critics shouting for sovereignty - it
is clear that India feels it can negotiate with a superpower, as an
"India is not going to be a junior partner to the US, and India
is not going to be uncritically supportive of the US on all issues,"
says C. Rajamohan, a member of India's National Security Advisory
Stumbling over inspections
At the core of the controversy is a US proposal to grant official
Nuclear Power Status to India, including the ability to buy nuclear
fuels and parts on the global market, in return for Indian
cooperation with regular inspections by the UN-mandated
International Atomic Energy Agency.
India has agreed in principle to allow inspections at a number of
its civilian nuclear plants, but wants to withhold certain military
and research labs from IAEA inspection.
The proposed landmark nuclear agreement, announced during Singh's
visit to Washington last July, has been criticized by
nonproliferation experts around the world because India never signed
the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under US and international law,
nuclear technology can only be shared with countries who have signed
In Washington, some members of Congress argue that the Bush
administration could be setting a dangerous double standard by
granting India Nuclear Power Status, while denying it to countries
such as Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran.
But Indian experts say they're not asking for too much.
"We really don't want the moon," says Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, a
nuclear scientist and former chairman of India's Atomic Energy
Regulatory Board in Hyderabad. "The rational view is to state the
obvious: India is a nuclear power. Then you figure out how much you
can live with, and what are the minimal modifications you can get
But Dr. Gopalakrishnan says there is a powerful sense of
suspicion - and even revenge - among India's nuclear science
establishment toward the US.
"It is the US that forced such painful sanctions on us" in 1974,
after India tested its first nuclear bomb, "and it is these same
guys who are trying to change the rules again," he says. …