‘Using n-deal to make India toe US line on Iran big mistake’

July 7th, 2008 - 8:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 7 (IANS) Now that India has salvaged its civil nuclear deal with the US, a noted journalist has advised lawmakers to stop trying to use it “as a leverage to force India to back the US line on Iran.” “Using the nuclear deal to try to force India to align with the US policy on Iran would be a big mistake,” said Bill Emmott, former editor in chief of The Economist in an article in the Washington Post Monday.

Describing the deal as “that rare thing, a foreign policy move by the Bush administration that could look strategically smart to future historians”, he said its revival had put “the onus back on the US to get it implemented.”

“For that to happen, Congress must stop trying to use the deal as leverage to force India to back the US line on Iran.”

The Bush administration, as well as Democratic and Republican presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, should also produce plans for a US-led revamping of the world’s anti-proliferation rules,” Emmott maintained.

“Such US leadership would be greatly assisted by the sort of grand gesture of nuclear arms reduction” recently proposed by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

The author of “Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade” noted the deal had been pronounced “almost certainly dead” by unnamed US officials less than a month ago.

“This past weekend the corpse suddenly twitched back to life, thanks to sharp political manoeuvring by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Congress Party,” Emmott said referring to the extension of support by the Samajwadi Party to the beleaguered coalition government.

“Now, the deal will almost certainly be signed by India’s government - putting the onus back on the United States to get it implemented,” he said in the article titled “New Life for the India Nuclear Pact.”

By not requiring it to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the “deal makes a huge exception of India, endorsing its status as a nuclear-weapons state and granting it a more lenient regime of inspections of its nuclear power facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency than is normal,” he said.

“Why?” Emmott asked and then responded: “The answer is China.”

“Neither the US nor the Indian government want to say so, but the basic reason to make India an exception and to bring it closer to the United States is the desire to balance the rising power of China in Asia,” he said adding: “Such a balance is in both countries’ clear interests”

India’s decision to go ahead with the deal in the face of domestic political compulsions “deserves to be rewarded” by a strong American effort to persuade the International Atomic Energy Agency and the members of the global Nuclear Suppliers Group to endorse the deal, and then by a rapid ratification in the final session of Congress this year.

The first of those efforts would be greatly assisted by bipartisan US declarations that the NPT needs revamping and that every effort will be made to reform it in the coming years to bring in new nuclear powers such as India, he said.

“The second would be assisted by senior members of Congress displaying a more realistic attitude toward India’s ties with Iran,” Emmott said.

“Support for a closer US relationship with India is now bipartisan,” the author noted. “But that happy picture is blurred by concern that India is unhelpfully friendly with Iran, wanting to buy its gas and to receive official visits from its Holocaust-denying president.”

“Using the nuclear deal to try to force India to align with the US policy on Iran would be a big mistake,” Emmott said.

“Thanks to its colonial history, India is fiercely protective of its autonomy; it is never going to sign up for a full Japanese-style alliance with the United States. Trying to force it to toe the US line on Iran, to be ‘either with us or against us,’ would be letting the best be the enemy of the good,” he maintained.

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