Former diplomat slams n-deal, says US arm-twisting India

April 10th, 2008 - 6:16 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) The India-US civil nuclear deal risks “falling through the cracks” due to a “disconnect” in the objectives of the two countries, a former Indian diplomat has said, while accusing the US of “arm-twisting” India over the Iranian issue. “The nuclear deal between the two countries may well be ‘wildly popular’ among India’s affluent elite, but millions of Indians are deeply troubled by reckless US adventurism in India’s neighbourhood - in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq,” says Rajiv Sikri, a former secretary in the external affairs ministry.

“Whereas the US emphasizes the strategic significance and non-proliferation objectives of the nuclear deal, India persists in stressing its nuclear energy aspects. Such a disconnect in stated objectives risks the deal’s falling through the cracks,” says Sikri.

In an article called “Misunderstanding India”, published in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs, an influential US strategic journal that is read religiously by the power pack in Washington, Sikri argues that India’s mistrust of the US does not stem from the nuclear issue but from its policy of “coddling” Pakistan.

“Contrary to what Burns (United States Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns) states, the nuclear issue has not been the key point keeping India and the United States apart,” he writes while attacking an article by R. Nicholas Burns, a key interlocutor on the India-US nuclear deal, in an earlier edition of Foreign Affairs.

“Indian mistrust of the US is rooted in the decades-old US policy of military and diplomatic support for Pakistan,” he says.

“The US’ opposition to India’s becoming a nuclear weapons power and its unwillingness to support India’s permanent membership in the UN Security Council have only strengthened Indian misgivings,” he writes.

Sikri also warns against “a long-term divergence of interests” between India and the US on key global and regional issues, including Myanmar and Iran.

The nuclear deal continues to be bogged down in domestic political debate in India, which is yet to sign a safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a key step towards implementing the nuclear deal.

If the next two steps - the IAEA pact and a change in guidelines by the Nuclear Suppliers Group - are not concluded before July, it will be difficult for the US Congress to ratify the deal before it gets swamped by election year business.

Sikri, a contender for the post of foreign secretary who was superseded by the current incumbent Shivshankar Menon nearly two years ago, has a long roster of grievances against the US policy towards India.

“The Bush administration’s arm-twisting of India on Iran has left a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of the Indian public, and its facile equation of Islam with terrorism has drawn a particularly hostile reaction from India’s 160 million Muslims,” he writes.

“The unabashed US attempt to reduce India’s military dependence on Russia threatens to undermine Indian-Russian relations, and the Indian political class is not yet ready to strengthen ties with the US at the cost of its friendship with Russia.”

This flawed approach, Sikri contends, emanates from Washington’s failure “to feel the pulse of India and understand its soul” and has cast a shadow over “an otherwise ascendant and mutually beneficial relationship” between the two countries.

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