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Walker's World: Indian nukes and the G8

Phot courtesy AFP.
by Martin Walker
Paris (UPI) Jul 9, 2008
Forget about that hollow claim from the Group of Eight summit that the main industrialized nations have agreed to halve carbon emissions by 2050. They promised that 16 years ago at the United Nations' 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

The most important event at the G8 meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, was a meeting on the sidelines between U.S. President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that will change the geopolitics of Asia. It also could implode what is left of the world's control regime against nuclear proliferation, the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The U.S.-India nuclear pact was agreed on in 2005. It would bring India in from the cold as a nuclear weapons power that chose never to sign the NPT. This means India has long been barred from getting nuclear fuels and technologies from other nuclear powers.

The Bush-Singh deal outrages nuclear purists. It lets India into the nuclear club without abiding by the NPT rules. It leaves several of India's nuclear reactors dedicated to military use outside the inspection regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency. India's own top nuclear scientists hate it, since they say it leaves India's future strategic interests hostage to a decision by the U.S. Congress to cut off uranium supplies.

China hates it because it symbolizes the new Indo-U.S. alliance, which is very clearly aimed at balancing a surging Chinese superpower in Asia. Because of China's objections, India's communists hate it, and this has been a real problem since Singh's coalition government depends on their votes. The 59 communists in Parliament have now walked out of the government rather than back a nuclear deal with George Bush and the American imperialists.

Singh has called their bluff and has forged a new political alliance with some of India's smaller parties that should give him a bare majority in the 545-seat Parliament.

Indian democracy being a flawed, complex and often corrupt system, the deal he reached with Amur Singh of the 39-seat Samajwadi Party (a regional grouping from north India) was not for the squeamish. Police inquiries into his and his son's finances are being dropped, and he wants control of the Electricity and Fuel ministries. He also wants to get rid of Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram and Reserve Bank Governor Yaga Venugopal Reddy, supposedly for their inability to contain inflation.

In short, the Indian government is paying a very stiff price to push through the nuclear deal, or rather, to cement the U.S. strategic alliance that underpins it.

Naturally, that is not how the Indian government is presenting the deal. It is being sold as a way for India to solve its energy problems, slashing its oil import bill and ending the country's dismal routine of electricity cuts and shortages. In turn, this also will solve some of the government's massive deficit, since subsidies for oil, gas and electricity now account for close to 6 percent of the Indian budget.

And, of course, an election is coming, and the evidence of previous provincial elections is that Singh's current coalition led by the Congress Party faces a stinging defeat, despite India's impressive economic growth.

Even if he loses the election, Singh will go down in history as a highly successful leader if he succeeds in passing the nuclear deal. It also would go a long way to secure a real legacy for the otherwise dismal presidency of Bush, consolidating a strategic partnership with the world's largest democracy.

But the timetable could now be the enemy. If Singh's deal with the smaller parties lets him survive a vote of no confidence in India's Parliament, he will need to get approval from the IAEA that the deal conforms with the NPT regime.

Since the deal bends the rules of the international inspection regime, this could be a problem, particularly since the United States is demanding the IAEA stick to the letter of the law with regard to Iran's nuclear ambitions. And then the deal has to be approved by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers' Group, where Russia might want to raise a few time-wasting objections. Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland also are raising some questions of principle. In Australia's case, this stance looks suspiciously deferential to China, an increasingly influential customer and trading partner.

And the U.S. Congress has yet to find the legislative time to agree to the final technical details of the deal. Ordinarily, the Democrat-led Congress might be reluctant to give the Bush presidency a success in the closing months of office, and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, D-Del., is skeptical of the deal. But the Indian lobby in Washington is increasingly influential, and while nuclear deals may not be popular, India as the world's most populous democracy and key friend in a key strategic region is very popular indeed. And then there is the prospect of more than $10 billion in arms purchases from the United States and double that sum in nuclear power plants and technology.

In short, the odds on an Indian-U.S. nuclear deal are very much better than those on the G8 summit's promises to do something about global warming. Come to think of it, if the nuclear deal can replace a lot of India's future energy needs with clean nuclear fuel, it may be a real breakthrough on global warming.

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Korean Nuclear Diplomacy Continues As Ever Part One
Moscow (UPI) Jul 8, 2008
With a six-month delay, North Korea presented a list of its nuclear programs to China, which chairs the six-nation talks aimed at ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

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