From Talking Points a publication of the American Progress Action Fund
March 1 , 2006
As the President heads to South Asia today, he will be just the third president in the last three decades to visit India – a rapidly emerging global power. India, the world’s largest democracy, contains the third largest Muslim population in the world. It also has roughly 300 million middle class Indians, a population more sizable than the United States itself. Despite these positives, India faces many challenges. With over 500 million of the world’s poorest people in India, health concerns over the spread of HIV and Avian bird flu and economic opportunity should be integral part of dialogue throughout the President’s trip. Unfortunately, Bush’s trip is "likely to be dominated" by efforts to patch together a misguided nuclear technology that doesn’t work for India or the US.
- President Bush’s position does not improve U.S. security. President Bush’s apparent approval of providing India with the civilian nuclear technology necessary to produce fissile material is troubling. India is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and has "tested a nuclear device that uses materials and technology diverted from its civilian nuclear program." It also sends the wrong signals to countries like Iran; we are essentially rewarding India for the same actions we are trying to prevent Iran from taking. In addition, it’s not clear that India plans to use the new technology strictly for civilian purposes. New Delhi has resisted separating its "highly integrated civilian and military nuclear program" to the degree desired by the US.
- President Bush’s position is not helping to promote regional stability. The Bush administration argues that giving India more influence in the region will help create "an Asian powerhouse to counterbalance China." While this thinking has some merit, it is misguided. "The Indians want to grow rich off of China’s growth,” (pdf) and are not about to contain them. Where India can be helpful is in influencing China’s choices about issues such as democracy and transparency. A bad first step by President Bush is by not allowing India to join the world’s bedrock nuclear nonproliferation program. The deal also could destabilize the tenuous relations between India and Pakistan. Any increase in India’s nuclear capability will inspire a response from Pakistan, who will likely seek to "build extra nukes to retain a viable deterrent," which is an especially alarming prospect "because Pakistan’s dictatorship sits atop a cauldron of militant Islamic ferment and because Pakistan’s nuclear scientists have a record of retailing know-how to rogue nations." Finally, this deal will make it "harder to protest when China and Russia decide to promote the nuclear ambitions of their respective allies."
- President Bush’s deal does not address India’s energy needs. President Bush argues that the nuclear deal will help address India’s long-term energy needs and ease the strain of their demand on the global markets. However, investing in nuclear power plants is not an effective solution. Investing in clean coal technology and pushing for serious energy conservation steps in the United States – by far the world’s largest energy consumer – would do much more to help meet the global energy crisis.
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