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March 2, 2006
The Message Behind The India Deal

George Bush won an important diplomatic victory, one he has long sought, in bringing India into close ties with the United States. He and Indian PM Manmohan Singh signed a deal to support nuclear energy initiatives in the world's largest democracy despite earlier sanctions arising from India's nuclear testing eight years ago, prompting Singh to declare the US-Indian relationship healthier than ever before:

The agreement between the world’s oldest and largest democracies allows India to buy nuclear technology and fuel from the US to power its fast-growing economy.

It marks a major shift in American policy towards India, which Washington punished with sanctions after it conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998.

“Things change,” Mr Bush said as he announced the deal with Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India.“It’s in our interests that India have a civilian nuclear industry to help take the pressure off of the global demand for energy.”

Mr Singh declared: “History was made today.

“Our discussions today make me confident that there are no limits to Indo-US partnerships.”

In an even more surprising development, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei endorsed the deal despite India's refusal to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Some have speculated that Bush might have trouble getting this new treaty ratified because of the NPT issue, but ElBaradei told the press that the new program aimed at strengthening India's civilian nuclear-energy program will assist in containing proliferation. Any potential opposition in the Senate will find themselves undercut by that statement -- and the natural alliance that should exist between the two democracies will find too much sympathy for opposition on any other grounds.

This deal sends a strong message of solidarity to the Indians, who for too long got forgotten by the US after successive governments decided to play footsie with the Soviet Union and the Non-Aligned Movement rather than ally India with the democracies of the West. However, that's not the only message this deal sends, and at least one of the other recipients listened closely.

Bush has long desired to build stronger ties with India as a counterweight to China. This move isn't a shot in the dark, either. The US policy under George Bush in central and southern Asia pushes democracy as a bulwark against increasing Russian autocracy and Chinese expansionism. The effort lines up nicely with the US push in the 'stans to expand American influence through the support of free and open political structures. Having India as an ally helps build credibility and underscores Bush's commitment to freedom.

Bush also sent a message to China about both North Korea and Iran by dismissing India's status as a nuclear power. The Chinese have not proven very helpful in resolving either conflict, allowing Kim Jong-Il to dither on disarmament and quietly obstructing a clear and timely resolution to the Iranian showdown. China has made clear that it will not support even economic sanctions against the mullahcracy, making the UNSC referral somewhat of a moot point.

In shrugging at India's nuclear weapons and concluding this far-reaching agreement despite India's status on the NPT, Bush has dropped the other shoe on both China and Russia. Russia has been playing at Great Game efforts of late, especially on Iran. Now Bush has answered both China and Russia with an influential and public counterweight to Russia's designs on influence in Asia and China's attempt at political and economic hegemony.

India also gains by landing the US as an ally against both nations and regaining Western focus. No doubt Delhi has paid attention to the rise of radical Islam in the region, being surrounded by the phenomenon and having their own internal issues with restive Muslims. They need friends in the West more than ever now, and the predominantly Hindu nation understands the consequences of falling victim to dhimmitude.

This may well wind up being the most significant diplomatic victory of the Bush administration, for economics, globalization, and geopolitics. Hopefully the Senate will not attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when the time comes to ratify the deal.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 2, 2006 9:05 PM

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