Thursday, September 22, 2005
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Noted South Asia authority Stephen P Cohen has said he objects to the Indo-US nuclear agreement because it was concluded without any consultation with Congress and without the Indian government taking the opposition at home into confidence.
In an interview published this week, Cohen said there are important non-proliferation issues involved which have to be adhered to, but India does not want to restrain or roll back its nuclear programme, which makes the issue “very complicated”. He said that for many Americans, India’s going nuclear was a “non-proliferation disaster” and though he does not share that position, clearly India’s acquisition of a nuclear bomb did “some damage” to the non-proliferation regime. Indians, he said, base their “great record” on the fact that unlike China and Pakistan, they have not transferred nuclear technology to others, but the fact is that India has been a “major proliferator,” something that is going to be a “major obstacle” for the nuclear deal signed between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July.
Cohen said it would need to be seen how Congress changes the existing law if the deal is to find approval. He felt that the ultimate decision would have to be a compromise between non-proliferation interests and regional and strategic security interests. He said “real questions” would need to be asked on both sides as to what kind of an emerging power India would be. According to him, the new law in US Congress should be written in such a way as to bring in countries like Pakistan and Israel to get more of their facilities under international inspection. One of the key issues, he added, is how big a nuclear weapons programme India wants to have and how rigid the barrier will be between civil and military. India, he said, would have to “erect really a tall and impermeable wall between its military and civil programmes.”
Cohen pointed out that in India, both the left and the right are opposed to the deal, so he was not sure whether the Manmohan Singh government could push it through or not. Nor was he sure if Bush can do the same. He said there remain questions about what kind of a major power India wants to be. He recalled that while Indians invested heavily in Chinese software and high-tech, when the Chinese wanted to do the same in India, it was opposed by the Indian security and intelligence agencies, although commercial interests in India in favour of letting the Chinese invest in Indian high-tech. “So this raises a lot of questions about India and China, and these are some of the ambiguities about India’s rise that have to be addressed both by the US and China and, of course, by India,” Cohen added.
The interview was published by India Abroad.