Bush to India, Rice to Indonesia

Updated On: Mar 07, 2006

Bush’s visit to India is highly significant.

It signaled the world’s only superpower’s final approval of an emerging power’s admission into the nuclear club. And it is mostly an Indian victory. After seven months of hard bargaining, India has conceded nothing and yet has now legitimized its own nuclear program. Its eight "military" facilities will go untouched by international inspection OR Washington intrusion. Only its fourteen "civilian" facilities will be open to supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). To put it in a simpler language, India can now choose whether it wants to develop nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors, regardless of Washington’s preference or Japanese pressures, as all forms of economic sanctions from these two powers have been dropped.

Reactions from the ASEAN region is swift. Singapore’s Radio Singapore International and CNA interviewed Mr. George Abraham, Regional Representative of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Mr Abraham opined that India’s willingness to work with the US should not be seen as containment ofChina. He said: “India and China have started on a path to friendship that has started at least three thousand years ago if not more. So they recognize each other’s potential. In fact, they are now trying very hard to work together at not only the political level but also the economic level.”

The Jakarta Post ran an editorial detailing the severe deep split between PM Manmohan's government and the leftwing of Indian politics affecting domestic sentiments over Bush’s visit.

Along being welcomed to the nuclear club, India is going to enjoy a renaissance in US technological transfer, US consumer power, a flurry of agreements on energy, environment, disaster management, health, science and technology, etc. For some, India is in effect enjoying what it rightly deserves: treatment as a global power and an end to Cold War politics which saw India on the opposite side of Washington most of the time. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the joint Press conference: "There are no limits to the Indo-US partnership." A while later, Bush responded by saying: "I am convinced that Indo-US relations are good for the American people. I hope they are good for the Indian people as well."

India achieved all of the above by having stood on its own feet and developed its own indigenous political system as well as technologies without the need for external help. There is a convergence now of Indian interests with the developed world.  Moralists in India however argue that this also means the end of India’s image as a non-aligned power and defender of the third world.

As Bush and the Indian PM stood together at Hyderabad House, Parliament’s proceedings were disrupted by communist and socialist members vehemently opposing American presence.  There were also demonstrations elsewhere in New Delhi and other cities where Bush’s effigies were burnt and India’s Marxist leader Jyoti Basu came out to declare Bush the "world’s greatest terrorist". Ultra nationalists also oppose the friendship by arguing that IAEA safeguards 'in perpetuity' are an infringement of sovereignty not imposed on the other five acknowledged nuclear powers of UKRussiaChinaFrance and the US.

These oppositions signaled that both sides still have their challenges - Bush to sell India’s nuclear status to a hostile Congress and PM Manmohan to hostile protectionist lobbyists and Marxist/Socialist groups as well as an emerging school of advocates for better relations with China and continued non-aligned status in global politics. US Congress will decide on whether to approve and for the Bush administration to persuade the Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift the sanctions imposed on the supply of nuclear fuel required for Indian atomic reactors. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls exports of nuclear materials, equipment and technology, must also be persuaded to make an exception in the case of India which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban treaties. The problem for Congress and Bush too is that its other allies like Pakistan has already started to clamour for a nuclear status similar to India’s. And some argue that this throws the US policy on North Korean nuclear capabilities into an uncertain area as well. In other words, what are the conditions for being recognized or refused as a nuclear power?

The US has other price to pay as well for cozying up to India at the same time to shore up their support against terrorism and a rising China. The Indian side presented the Americans with documents and photographs purporting to prove the existence of 123 terrorist training camps in Pakistani Kashmir.  How is the USgoing to balance between Indian and Pakistani interests? Mr Bush calls Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf 'a man of courage' and 'a key ally in the war on terror', yet is unwilling to bestow Pakistan the same nuclear status as India. Councillor Robert D. Blackwill of the US Council of Foreign Affairs, President Bush's first ambassador to India, argued that Pakistan's does not have a good nuclear record, supplying Iran for example with nuclear materials. Meanwhile, ChinaPakistan’s closest ally, supports the same privileges for Pakistan.

Meanwhile as Bush wraps up his visit to India and Pakistan, Condoleezza Rice will travel to ChilePeruIndonesia and Australia, from March 10 to 18. BothIndonesia and Australia have been named as Washington’s candidates to contain Chinese power and influence, or at least secure their non-alliance with newfound Chinese power. Australia, an old friend of the US and now a newfound trade partner of China will remain loyal to its Sheriff (“Howard doctrine”) as a deputy would by hosting the first ministerial-level meeting of the Trilateral Security Dialogue, a three-way discussion among the United

StatesAustralia and Japan that addresses regional and global security issues. Or what conservatives view as an unmentioned alliance that monitors Chinese power.

Assistant to US Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Christopher Hill is also busy cozying up to Jakarta saying that the relations between the US and Indonesia were good and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono`s visit to United States in May last year was an important development in the bilateral relations in Jakarta itself. Overall it is likely that the US will cozy up to India and Indonesia but will still find an independently proud India acting on its agenda or anIndonesia somewhat welcoming but somewhat suspicious of US intentions while diplomatically courting other big powers as well.


Rice announces travel to IndonesiaChilePeru and Australia (Antara, March 5)

Comment: India comes in from the cold by Mahendra Ved  (NST, March 5)

US and India: a strategic nuclear deal (ST, March 4)

President Bush to foster closer business ties in India visit (RSI and CNA, Feb 28)

Howard pressures Muslims to just 'fit in' (JP, Feb 27)

Opinion and Editorial (JP, February 22)