The President's visit to Southeast Asia may be noteworthy for what is not accomplished as much as anything. As one astute Indian observer of the South Asia scene observed in Washington before the
Whenever there is a discussion on Mr. Bush's forthcoming visit to India and Pakistan, the questions that are raised are not concerning the kind of agreements he should sign in New Delhi to convince the skeptics in the Indian public that Dr. Manmohan Singh's overtures to the US and his ill-concealed support to Washington DC on the Iran nuclear issue have been worthwhile. They are concerning Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.While it is true that a former RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) officer (Indian Intelligence) will naturally focus on the local rivalry with Pakistan, the point above nonetheless has merit. The American policy making community remains locked in the tired and hollow GWOT (tm) rut even now. A metropole cannot expect to exert influence across the globe for long if it remains oblivious to rising agendas, trends and future capacities at the increasingly dynamic periphery.
And the Indian concern about Musharaff is not completely misplaced. Even factoring in the local rivalry issue, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about betting all chips on Musharaff. But of even more immediate concern is whether the Indian government will survive the Bush visit. As UPI's Martin Walker reports this morning, the Administration has pushed the Indian government into an overt crisis:
President George W. Bush's India visit next week is threatened with disaster after a revolt by Indian nuclear scientists, senior officials and politicians against the Indo-American nuclear cooperation agreement that Bush plans to sign in New Delhi.Nicholas Burns, negotiating the deal in New Dehli in advance of the President's visit, apparently was caught flatfooted by the furor. At issue was the American attempt to separate Indian civilian nuclear activities from their military infrastructure and seek civilian compliance with IAEA verification frameworks. Until that is done, American commercial and technological benefits under the treaty will be withheld.
After angry scenes in the Indian parliament Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been warned by the left-wing parties in his ruling coalition that they will bring down his government by voting with the opposition against the nuclear agreement with the United States.
The hostility to the agreement has brought together an unprecedented alliance of critics who say that it is deeply damaging to Indian national interests, and will in effect curtail the future of India's independent nuclear deterrent.
Frankly, verification and Indian participation are good policy choices, but it appears this bifurcation strategy of the Administraton was not an overt negotiation position from the start. Thus, Burns and company are perceived to have inserted this requirement as a near fait accompli on the eve of the state visit. The IAEA issue is not a simple question of verification or not. Key sensitivities are involved, such as Indian desires to protect their research and development into thorium as an alternative to uraninium, etc. The American negotiations unfolded in a manner that allowed a broad political spectrum in India to unite and threaten to topple the government. Their claim that American furtiveness demonstrates the Administration is determined not to treat India as an equal partner resonates. Walker closes by noting:
It is difficult to exaggerate the depth of feeling among senior Indian officials who oppose the deal. They are suspicious of American motives, and they are now starting to question the goodwill that President Bush insists he is bringing to the long-term strategic partnership. “We have been promised a great deal by President Bush in cooperation on space technology and on access to dual-use technology but so far we have seen zero from the American side,” complained another senior official.The evolution of American recognition of Indian strategic importance since even 2002 has been remarkable and encouraging. It was not that long ago that India was viewed in the strategic competitor/threat category by important voices in the Administration. Now, from questions on Iran, Iraq, China, energy and technology, Indian importance and contributions are recognized. Not only within the framework of the GWOT (tm) canard, but also regarding the future of the overall Eurasian balance of power.
Is verification a goal worth negotiating for? Undoubtedly. Is balancing Indian concerns with Pakistani non-compliance with IAEA, etc. tricky? Absolutely. Tough calls for a Leader and a team 'that doesn't do nuance.'