March 1, 2006

Bush Visit - Some Thoughts.

Much attention is centered now on the Bush visit to India and the possibility of clinching a nuclear deal, which is expected to somehow make India and the world a better place.

The benefits for the United States—and much of the world—are real. This agreement would bring a rising power into the global tent, making it not an outsider but a stakeholder, and giving it an incentive to help create and shape international norms and rules. For example, India is becoming more worried about a nuclear Iran for this reason, and not because it is being pressured to do so by the United States. When India was being treated like an outlaw, it had no interest in playing the sheriff.

But the agreement would yield far bigger benefits for India. India's nuclear program has grown in total isolation. Now it would get integrated with the world, gaining access to materials, technology, know-how and markets. The agreement would open up new worlds of science and energy.

For the life of me, I can not understand the logic of this argument. It is an example of the arrogant, and incorrect, world view that the salvation must come through the benign actions of the United States and it is important that all well-meaning nations join the US in this historic mission. It is accepted and indeed required that the US play the role of the sheriff. And nations like India which have traditionally been outsiders must join in this process of policing.

It is unfortunate that Indian political leaders are jumping this bandwagon and are willing to go to any lengths to secure the friendship with the US. This is the context in which we must view the recent overtures between the world's two biggest democracies. It is by no means confined to the nuclear deal that is making the headlines. The agreement reached when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the US in July 2005 on a global democracy initiative is another example of this.

This is a very nice article in The Hindu which analyzes this trend.

A much richer, resource-endowed Indian state now believes that its "place in the sun" can only be ensured by promoting an American version of democracy, whose next act Washington wants to perform in Iran.

A rising India is today closing its strategic options by allying closely with the United States. Some years ago, it would have been considered a general insult for the U.S. to say that it would "help" India become a global power. Now, sections of India's strategic elite simply applaud such statements.


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