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Congress Party’s nuclear red lines for Obama

C. Raja Mohan | Raja-Mandala<br> In tune with India’s traditional emphasis on the middle path,the Congress leadership that stared down the nuclear opportunism of the CPM and BJP at home is now looking the non-proliferation ayatollahs,who are back in power in Washington,in the eye.

Written by C. Raja Mohan | New Delhi | March 25, 2009 3:21:53 pm

As the Congress Party,in the manifesto released Tuesday in New Delhi,criticised the CPM for opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal,the Manmohan Singh government is gearing up for another round of political wrestling with America on non-proliferation issues.

In tune with India’s traditional emphasis on the middle path,the Congress leadership that stared down the nuclear opportunism of the CPM and BJP at home is now looking the non-proliferation ayatollahs,who are back in power in Washington,in the eye.

In an important speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington on Monday,the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy,Shyam Saran,extended India’s hand of cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation to the Obama Administration. But it is not clear whether the newly empowered ‘non-pro’ hawks in Washington are ready to grow out of their anti-India mindset.

Although President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported the Indo-US nuclear deal as Senators,many leading lights in the Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment were absolutely opposed to the deal.

They employed every trick in the American legislative book to undermine President George W. Bush’s historic nuclear initiative towards India. One of them,Ellen Tauscher,has been nominated to become the high priest of non-proliferation in the State Department. Her nomination has reinforced the widespread speculation that nuclear tensions between India and the United States are likely to be renewed under the Obama Administration.

The conference at Brookings provided the stage for Saran to lay out a positive agenda for cooperation with the US on nuclear issues as well as draw a few red lines for the Obama Administration.

Saran underlined the convergence of views between India and the Obama Administration on a range of issues — from nuclear disarmament to atomic terrorism,and proliferation security initiative to control of anti-satellite weapons.

While offering to work together on this expansive agenda,Saran made it quite clear that India won’t be hustled into compliance with the Obama Administration’s nuclear unilateralism.

Two assertions of Saran stand out. One is that New Delhi will not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that Obama’s people want to push down India’s throat. Two,Saran expressed India’s strong reservations against any discriminatory regime that prevents India from gaining access to sensitive technologies relating to uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing.

If you thought the nuclear debate between India and the United States is over,think again.

(C. Raja Mohan is a Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies,Nanyang Technological University,Singapore)

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