Saturday's news that the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
had approved India for civilian nuclear trade was heralded as a
watershed moment in the country, with nonstop television coverage
and breathless headlines: "India No More N-Pariah."
The decision to open India to nuclear trade - despite the fact
that it has a military nuclear program in violation of international
codes - faced stiff opposition during NSG talks this weekend in
Vienna. But for the US and India, who have been pushing the deal,
the accord is expected to boost the two countries' ties and help
India meet its growing demand for energy.
What means most to the Indians who support the controversial deal
is that one of the world's most exclusive clubs decided to give
India a membership card.
"It is psychologically important," says K. Subrahmanyam, a former
member of the National Security Council Advisory Board. "India has
been recognized as a power not to be subjected to a discriminating
A widespread feeling in India is that the country has been
unfairly punished for harboring ambitions no different from that of
any other nation of the nuclear club. Its only mistake, the thinking
goes, is that it came to the table too late. In fact, the NSG, which
regulates nuclear commerce, was formed in response to India's first
nuclear test in 1974.
To many Indians, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's decision to
test a nuclear weapon was the fulfillment of India's destiny, at
last taking the nation into the exclusive company that its
population and millenniums-old history demanded. To many in the
international community, however, it marked India's attempt to crash
the global order.
Now, India has done it, and for some it is a moment for
celebration. "It should have been done a long time ago," says Mr.
In winning NSG approval Saturday, India has succeeded where no
other country had before: presented itself before the international
community's nuclear arbiters as a faithful steward of the world's
most dangerous secrets. After days of complex negotiations, the 45
nations of the NSG decided that - even at a time when Iran and North
Korea are considering the same path India took in 1974 - they
"It is a recognition that India has been a responsible nuclear
power," says Subrahmanyam. "The rise of India as a power has not
been seen as threatening the rest of the world."
Yet there is hardly universal accord that approving the deal was
a smart move - either in or outside India. …