The Indian government may topple due to a pact it has made with the Bush Administration.
This is the U.S.-India nuclear deal. After being stalled for a while due to the monumental egos of both sides, the agreement was recently finalized. But now the ruling Indian coalition government's Communist allies have threatened to withdraw their support if the Indian administration abides by the pact. At issue is a clause that the Communists (as well as members of the right-wing opposition) say would threaten India's ability to do nuclear testing.
Some people will scoff at the whole affair as reflexive anti-Americanism on the part of unreconstructed Stalinists. But the truth is more complicated than that. No matter how closely they were aligned with the Soviet Union in the Cold War days, the Indian Communists have proven to be quite democratic in practice, even giving the world the first elected Marxist government at the provincial level, in Kerala in 1957. And even if some of their opposition to the deal comes from a knee-jerk opposition to anything involving the United States, they are right in their reservations about the deal, although for the wrong reasons.
The Bush Administration has given away a lot to India in the agreement. It has recognized as completely legitimate a program that India conceived in dishonesty and stealth back in the late 1960s and the early 1970s by misusing material and know-how provided by countries such as Canada and the United States for its nuclear energy program. The United States has now put its stamp of approval on all of India's misbegotten efforts, exposing the Bush Administration's hypocrisy as it tries to halt or reverse similar projects in Iran and North Korea.
"India can produce and stockpile as much weapons-grade material as it likes in its unsafeguarded and military-nuclear facilities," notes Praful Bidwai, one of India's leading commentators. "The deal leaves India free to build even more weapons-dedicated facilities. . . . The deal panders to India's vaulting nuclear ambitions."
"India claims that with this deal the global order has been changed," writes Sandeep Pandey, a prominent Indian peace activist and a winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award (the Asian-level equivalent of the Nobel Prize). "And it is right. It has upset the non-proliferation regime. Globally and regionally, it is going to lead to a reconfiguration of forces, possibly leading to a renewed arms race."
So why is the Bush Administration, not usually known for its bigheartedness, so generous with India? The answer is two-fold.
First, it wants to enlist India as a junior partner in its global crusades. India will be expected to go along with the United States in its efforts to contain countries such as China and Iran.
The Bush Administration wants "to help India become a major world power in the 21st century," Financial Times reporter Edward Luce quotes an Administration official as saying in his recent "In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. "We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."
No prizes for guessing the unstated target of that declaration. The Bush Administration views India's billion-plus people as a counter to China.
And it expects India to play along on Iran, too. U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford caused an uproar in that country when he warned that the nuclear deal would otherwise be jeopardized. India has complied, casting two crucial votes at the IAEA with the United States on Iran's nuclear program.
The second reason for the Bush Administration's eagerness for the agreement is that its corporate backers are salivating at the huge market for nuclear reactors and supplies that will open up as a result of the deal. The pact "will present a major opportunity for U.S. and Indian companies," Ron Somers, president of the U.S-India Business Council, said last month. The council has frantically lobbied Congress for passage of the deal.
But the agreement needs to be scrapped. It legitimizes a nuclear program that is primarily an ego trip on the part of the Indian ruling elite, as demonstrated so convincingly by George Perkovich in his magisterial "India's Nuclear Bomb." It draws India into the Bush Administration's ill-conceived global geostrategic project. And it reinforces the notion of nuclear weapons as legitimate, when they are completely repugnant and unworthy of any decent nation.
Surely, the world's oldest and largest democracies should both realize that.