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Time ripe for India to clinch nuclear deal: Stephen Cohen

Special Correspondent

Indo-US relations will not be destroyed even if it fails, says defence expert Stephen Cohen Indo-US relations will not be destroyed even if it fails: Stephen Cohen


  • "If it succeeds, it will shape India's nuclear policy towards the U.S.
  • "It is important for the U.S., India, Japan and Vietnam to have a working relationship"

    CHENNAI: India now stands the best chance of going through with the deal for civilian nuclear co-operation with the United States as no other President is likely to show the same degree of enthusiasm towards India as George Bush, according to Stephen Cohen, senior fellow, Foreign Policy Studies Division, Brookings Institute.

    Though perceptions differed on both sides on the deal, the Indo-US relations will not be destroyed if it fails, Mr. Cohen, an internationally recognised expert on defence and strategic issues, said at a round table on `Politics of the Nuclear Deal and US-India Relations' organised by the Centre for Security Analysis on Saturday.

    While India's critics in the U.S. "projected the past on to the future" and argued that India would be an unreliable partner, the view on the other side was that the country "would be pushed around by the U.S." Also, the perception that India had not only kept out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but also thrashed it had aroused American anger.

    President Bush was decidedly pro-India, though there was still a long way to go for the deal to become a reality. It stood a 60:40 chance of getting through the Senate. If it succeeded, it would shape India's nuclear policy towards the U.S. "If the deal does not go through, it will be an opportunity lost for India," Mr. Cohen said.

    One aspect that had to be factored in, as far as American perception of India's role in the deal was concerned, was that India's new found confidence was being interpreted as a degree of aggressiveness, especially as one of the characteristics of the Indian strategic elite had hitherto been a "tremendous lack of self-confidence."

    Nuclear weapons would alter the rules of the game among major powers. While the Bush administration was obsessed with China before 9/11, the focus had shifted to countering terrorism since then, Mr. Cohen said in response to a question whether India and US getting together on the deal would contain China's `expansionist' tendencies. It was important for the U.S., India, Japan and Vietnam to have a working relationship.

    China was "suspicious but curious" about the deal, but was more concerned about American interference in Taiwan. Also, though it was not a strategic problem, there was a competition between the U.S., China, India, Japan and Europe in achieving energy security. The U.S. was showing no interest in signing a similar nuclear deal with Pakistan. "Just by getting into a position of attempting to acquire the technology for civil nuclear co-operation from the U.S., India has already notched up a victory. If the deal falls through, there will be no big repercussions on India. There is also no great rush in the U.S. to help Pakistan with its nuclear programme, especially at a time when the latter is entering into a period of great political uncertainty," Mr. Cohen said.

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