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Welcoming Obama’s Nuke Initiative

C. Raja Mohan | Raja-Mandala<br>

Written by C. Raja Mohan | New Delhi |
April 5, 2009 7:18:59 pm

As a nation that has long championed the abolition of nuclear weapons,India has every reason to welcome the new disarmament framework unveiled by US President Barack Obama in Prague on Sunday.

President Obama’s nuclear initiative is not too different from the vision articulated by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi two decades ago.

There is one big difference,however,between Rajiv’s nuclear action plan outlined at the United Nations in 1988,and Obama’s Prague nuclear design.

In the past,India was an ‘outsider’ demanding a voice in shaping the global nuclear rules; now New Delhi joins the debate as an ‘insider’ and a responsible nuclear weapon power.

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The changed relationship between India and the global order is indeed the principal benefit from the Indo-US nuclear deal that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conceived and implemented along with the US President George W. Bush during 2005-08 against great political odds.

In recent months,there has been some concern in New Delhi that the Obama Administration might seek to reverse the gains of the nuclear deal and return to a non-proliferation agenda that could once again divide India and the United States.

As it awaits a detailed briefing from Washington on the president’s nuclear plan,the first look at Obama’ plan suggests that there may be the basis for significant Indo-U.S. cooperation on nuclear arms control and non-proliferation.

India has always supported the three enduring traditional elements of this framework reaffirmed by Obama in Prague: responsibility of the United States and Russia for massive nuclear cuts,ending all nuclear testing,and a ban on the production of nuclear weapons material.

To be sure,the CTBT (the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty banning all nuclear explosions) and the FMCT (the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty that caps the size of global stockpile of nuclear material) have acquired negative connotations in India in recent years.

India never objected to the essence of the two treaties that it has championed since the middle of the last century. New Delhi wants to make sure they don’t discriminate against India. As Indo-US differences on these treaties narrow,India will be free to mobilize international support on the one new challenge that concerns it most–nuclear terrorism.

As it confronts on its western borders the epicenter of international terrorism,the Walmart of illicit nuclear trade,and the prospect of a failed state armed with nuclear weapons,India has every incentive to work with the United States in strengthening international cooperation to prevent extremist groups from acquiring atomic materials and weapons.

India can be even more enthusiastic in supporting Obama’s ideas on promoting the use of civil nuclear energy to mitigate the threat of global warming,providing fuel supply assurances to those nations that play by the rules,and creating new international institutions that reduce the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

(C. Raja Mohan is a Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of

International Studies,Nanyang Technological University,Singapore.)

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