Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Time To Give Up Nuclear Orthodoxy

(Letter to Democratic Representatives and Senators)

As you are aware President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh reached certain agreement regarding India’s civil nuclear energy program. Indian Prime Minister expressed following commitments from India:
- putting civilian nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards,
- signing on to the Additional Protocol with respect to the civilian nuclear facilities,
- joining the Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) and
- adopting Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines.
On behalf of America, President Bush primarily proposed open trade and transfer of nuclear material, parts and technology to India for civilian projects. This is a significant sign of mutual understanding and co-operation between these two countries. It is in recognition of India’s energy needs as well as it confirms India to well established international practices which avoid any misuse.

India has been seeking such co-operation and help from USA for long. However, apprehensions regarding India’s autonomous and independent military nuclear technology development and weaponization programs prohibited such trade developments. American Congress has been reluctant to accord the much needed approvals to initiate any such undertaking. Such apprehensions are deep rooted in the historical context of Cold War and the Geopolitical situations of 20th century. Many lawmakers, especially from Democratic party, continue to harbor these apprehensions and object the proposed co-operation in nuclear technology matter with India.

As usual bipartisan support for any such crucial foreign policy support is well deserved. For an initiative of a Republican President, Republican majority in both houses may extend full support. But it is equally important that Democratic party also endorsers these changes.

The changes in American nuclear trade policies in regards to India are well deserved and compelling in today’s world. The most obvious concern regarding letting Indian military nuclear program to continue is of proliferation. But all along, more than a quarter of century, India’s track record in this regard is without any blemish. Further, strong democratic political system ensures that Indian people are ultimately keeping effective and peaceful control on nuclear weapons program. The fear of any undemocratic element usurping power and misusing weapons is unfounded. The history of last half century of Indian Democracy amply demonstrates that. Full civilian control and weapons of last resort is the understanding of Indian lawmakers across the entire political spectrum. Further, India has been careful about what International commitments it would accept and fulfill those commitments scrupulously when she has accepted such commitments. This should give confidence to rest of world as far as intend and adherence to ‘rule of law’ by India. India did not sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) due to her valid objections to the treaty. So jettisoning any co-operation with reference to NPT does not apply to India’s case. In short, India’s measured activities and total compliance in this regard do not leave any opportunity for a doubt.

Given an opportunity, Indian people would like to avoid any escalation of nuclear weapons program. However, neighboring countries make it necessary in self-defense. NPT or no other compact afford Indian people any shield from nuclear weapons. Neighboring countries have time and again shown the hostile intends towards India and integrity of Indian Republic. In this context it is a luxury not to have appropriate counter measures which Indian Republic can ill afford.

On the other hand Nuclear Technology is one of the promising technology to address the ever-increasing needs of energy. America pursued this technology till late 70s and attained world-class sophistication. Helping India to utilize this know-how to address the pressing energy needs will be a big helping hand from America to one of most populous country of the world. It will help in the prosperity on Subcontinent, in turn helping the world peace.

With recent high oil prices and concerns of Global warming; there is a revival of interests in Nuclear Energy and American people consider this option seriously too. With India’s promising pool of talented engineers and scientists, there can be serious partnership in further developing such Nuclear Technology. It will not be far fetched to aim for the win-win situation as like what American and Indian private sector companies are enjoying in Information Technology Industry.

Proposed co-operation of Nuclear Technology will be one of the major building blocks of future Indo-American Foreign Relations. On the backdrop of emerging Geopolitical context of a new century; strong understanding and partnership between America and India will help bring peace in Asia and world at large.

Given all these positive consequences of such co-operation, many in Indo-American community, including myself, feel that Democratic party endorses steps proposed by President Bush. It is time to leave behind any type of orthodox, conventional thinking and embrace a brave new world where America plays the familiar roles – the roles of moral leader, strong friend and smart change agent.


Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
July 19, 2005.

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