Sunday, April 02, 2006

Congress and Indo – USA Nuclear Deal

Times of India reporter Chidanad Rajghatta (CD) finally lays down the dim prospects of passing this deal in the current Congress. I guess Indian media and establishment are finally waking up to the really uphill task of getting the approval from American Congress. It has been odd or rather too typical of Indian media, establishment and the general public to be so optimistic and euphoric for so long about this deal. When I get calls from my family back in India praising about this deal and expecting that Pres. Bush can surely buy the necessary approval from Congress, it suddenly, literally drove the point home – how India is clueless about the prospectus of this deal.

It is simply the case that Congress and American politics is preoccupied with so many other things which are dear to their immediate needs – immigration, Iraq, Iran, Gas prices and so on. As like with any democracy, when change in the ruling class is in the air; not much political business gets done but the only one which is absolutely necessary. Everything less becomes expendable and it fails to come on the political radar.

So it is not about the merit of this deal which is a problem. I guess that is what India’s foreign secretary Saran would have found in his latest trip to Washington. It is the timing and timing is simply not right at present. Pres. Bush is also learning the perils of ignoring Congress and he is unlikely to increase the stakes on this deal from his side any further when the administration needs co-operation from Congress on so many other important policies. Also his new team to deal with Congress will put other aspects of domestic importance first on the agenda.

Add to that the possibility of Congress asking some changes in the deal which Indian establishment would find hard to digest. That could delay the deal or even kill it. In the end it all depends on how much Democrats on the Hill are interested. If as CD points, Democrats do not want to hand foreign policy victory to Pres. Bush; the deal would not go through this Congress. But Democrats are likely to strengthen their position in the next Congress so things will be even more difficult. I suspect it is more than handing any foreign policy victory to Pres. Bush – it is all about the serious questions Democrats have about this deal.

One needs to read NYT editorial to understand the animosity towards this deal. NYT editorials show the thinking universe of Democrats and in that world there are indeed serious questions to be answered before the deal goes any further. One sign is how ever pro-Indian Tom Friedman also regards this deal – not to be supported in the present format unless India explicitly agrees to stop any further nuclear material processing for bombs. In that form, the deal becomes unpalatable to Indian tests.

May be India and USA find ways to improve their relations beyond this vexed issue of Nuclear pact. The other post about immigration discusses this issue. Unfortunately, there too not many encouraging signs emerge.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
April 2, 2006.

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