Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Superpower light ... Following Bush's recent recommendation that India, as a "responsible" nuclear country, should be able to buy nuclear fuel and parts for its reactors, Anand Giridharadas had this to say in the IHT:
Regardless of how soon uranium will flow to this fast-growing country of one billion, [Indian Prime Minister] Singh's visit [to Washington] may signify America's welcoming of a new type of superpower: militarily potent, economically dynamic, regionally assertive, independently minded, but still nonthreatening to the United States. Call it superpower light.
There's a lot you can read into this, but my own take is that this has as much to do with Iran and China as it does India. If you look at Bush's stance towards the few nuclear countries that have not ratified the major non-proliferation treaties, offering nuclear resources in exchange for open inspections is an extremely rare step; isolation tends to be their standard modus operandi.

The immediate reason they're making an exception here most likely has to do with Iran. For one, increasing India's nuclear energy would alleviate its economic dependence on Iranian oil and presumably diminish Iranian revenues. For another, the inspections we'd get in return would deter the kind of overt oil-for-reactors trade that has recently sprung up between Iran and Russia.

But by far the more pressing concern is China. In compromising with India on nuclear reactors -- and thus promoting the country as a "superpower light" -- Bush is acknowledging the fact that we now need India as much as they need us. Because we can no longer rely on the shared interests of South Korea, Japan, and Australia alone to act as a regional counterweight to China's power -- together they lack the demographic, if not economic strength -- we need India to be on the same page. Only if India perceives itself as sharing interests with those countries will the bloc have the collective resources necessary to contain China indefinitely over the coming decades.

I don't know if it's Rice or Rumsfeld or whoever, but someone in the Bush administration seems to be acutely aware of this. If not, I can't think of why else Bush would have caved on an issue he's been so loathe to compromise on in the past.

Update: Just came across the print version of today's Times. On page three there are two half-page stories: the top one is headlined "China Is Focusing on a Modern Military, Report Says"; the bottom is titled "U.S. Allies and Congress 'Positive' About India Nuclear Deal". One of life's minor coincidences, I guess.

... Also, check out Thomas Friedman's column today on U.S.-China relations. I'm not usually that impressed with his stuff, but this one is great.


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