U.S.-In­dia nu­clear ties

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Dur­ing his visit to In­dia ear­lier this year, Pres­i­dent Bush and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh es­tab­lished a frame­work for closer U.S.-In­dia ties, a cen­ter­piece of which — a civil­ian nu­clear ac­cord — re­ceived con­gres­sional ap­proval on Dec. 9 and was signed by Mr. Bush on Dec. 18. The deal on the whole is mer­i­to­ri­ous in its own right, but it is also a build­ing block of what is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship for the United States. In eco­nomic terms, the In­dian jug­ger­naut has shown great re­silience, with an­nual growth around 8-9 per­cent. Po­lit­i­cally, In­dian of­fi­cials un­der­stand the value of demo­cratic gov­er­nance, and In­dia has al­ready shown it­self as a force for pro­mot­ing democ­racy in its small, po­lit­i­cally un­sta­ble neigh­bor Nepal.

Al­though In­dia has not yet achieved the sta­tus of a world power, its po­ten­tial reaches be­yond South Asian hege­mony. Be­cause of its lo­ca­tion, In­dia can be a key player in terms of its strate­gic and eco­nomic im­por­tance to both the Mid­dle East and South­east Asia. As the world’s largest democ­racy, and with a foun­da­tion of shared val­ues with the United States, In­dia’s lead­er­ship in both re­gions makes it an im­por­tant ally. Stand­ing an­i­mos­ity be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan makes it dif­fi­cult to em­brace one with­out alien­at­ing the other, but the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has man­aged the feat of strength­en­ing re­la­tions with both si­mul­ta­ne­ously. In­dia shares a strong in­ter­est in the sta­bil­ity of Afghanistan and neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan, a re­gion that is still a hot­bed of Is­lamist ex­trem­ism.

This bur­geon­ing in­flu­ence will reach in­creas­ingly into Asia as well. Close ties with In­dia, as well as Ja­pan, may help at least hedge against, if not con­tain, a ris­ing China. The United States faces the chal­lenge of a chang­ing geopo­lit­i­cal dy­namic marked by Chi­nese mil­i­tary ri­valry in the Pa­cific — and China’s “string of pearls” strat­egy of in­creased pres­ence along the sea lanes to the Mid­dle East and Africa. In­dia sees China as a long-term ri­val, and per­haps be­cause of that it also sees Ja­pan as an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant and in­creas­ingly nat­u­ral ally. A strong al­liance be­tween New Delhi, Tokyo and Wash­ing­ton may be es­sen­tial to main­tain­ing a bal­ance of power in the Pa­cific that is to Amer­ica’s lik­ing.

It’s clearly in U.S. in­ter­ests to see In­dia con­tinue to de­velop as both a strate­gic and an eco­nomic power, and the sign­ing of the nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion ac­cord is a good ef­fort to fa­cil­i­tate that growth.

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