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U.S.-India nuclear agreement has advantages

By: Shrutih Tewarie
Posted: 4/24/06
In a time when the United States-Iran nuclear dispute remains one of the most po
lemical topics on the international scene, passing a nuclear deal with another d
eveloping nation seems like an ironic decision to make. Yet this is exactly what
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged members of Congress to do earlier thi
s month.
During his trip to India in March, President George W. Bush struck a milestone a
greement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, promising U.S. assistance in
advancing India's civil nuclear program in return for an open inspection of Ind
ian nuclear facilities.
While Rice has been lobbying for the agreement to be passed by Capitol Hill, app
roving the deal will not be an easy decision to make for Congress, as it demands
a deviation from 30 years of U.S. nuclear policy. (Traditionally, the United St
ates does not aid in the nuclear development of nations that have not yet signed
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.)
Invariably, the agreement comes with many political implications. Though its tim
ing is somewhat inopportune, its approval at a time when international nuclear p
olicy is particularly stringent will only further display the serious efforts on
the behalf of the United States to strengthen its ties with India. Considering
that the latter is currently the world's largest democracy, with economic growth
that is only surpassed by China's, the deal clearly has its advantages.
At the same time, Washington has expressed its hesitancy in passing the deal bec
ause of India's apparent relationship with Iran. India, like many other countrie
s, has strong oil ties with Iran. The nuclear deal is partly aimed at decreasing
India's dependency on Iran for energy sources; this might not lead to an immedi
ate loosening of ties between the two countries, however.
In fact, during Bush's visit, India also played host to two Iranian sailor ships
, whose arrival marked the onset of five days of joint collaborations between In
dia and Iran, as determined by the Tehran-New Delhi Treaty of 2003. By allowing
India to bypass the Non-Proliferation treaty, the United Sates may fear it is se
tting a bad precedent for countries such as Egypt, which might rethink their nuc
lear program once they no longer view the U.S. threat of retaliation as serious.
Clearly, the political effects of the nuclear deal are somewhat ambiguous, bring
ing many advantages and disadvantages. From an economic standpoint, though, the
implications are clearer and in fact, unanimously point to positive effects.
Even though India has been experiencing incredible economic growth, it still nee
ds to undergo many reforms before it can become fully comfortable in its role as
a world power. Like most developing countries, India still lacks a proper infra
structure and needs to improve upon its living conditions. The nuclear deal migh
t just help India to take the next step towards realizing those of its goals tha
t are aimed at improving these critical social conditions.
With the economy barging ahead, India has been largely unable to meet its demand
for a greater electricity supply, which was already scarce to begin with. Black
outs are a part of everyday life: Farmers in India, who account for approximatel
y two-fifths of the power consumed, can hardly count on receiving power for half
of the day. Many big companies build their own power plants to make sure their
operations are not halted due to inefficient power failures, an option smaller c
orporations do not have.
Additionally, the electricity demanded is estimated to increase by 10 percent. U
nder such conditions, the development of nuclear plants under the United States-
India agreement will allow India to better meet the challenge of the inevitably
increasing electricity shortages.
Furthermore, it will also help India achieve this in a way that is not harmful t
o the environment. Dependence on the coal sector - which, while being the cheape
st power supplier also contains the highest percentage of carbon - can be reduce
d. Nuclear power will provide India with a "cleaner" option, since the latter do
es not emit any greenhouse gases.
If the United States-India nuclear agreement is successful in its implementation
, India will be armed with at least one additional policy towards improving its
infrastructure. With oil prices soaring, it will also decrease India's dependenc
e on gas and supply it with more environment-friendly options towards its growin
g demand for power.
Undoubtedly, the agreement comes with political repercussions. Will the United S
tates attempt to set an example by refusing to violate the Non-Proliferation tre
aty for a country that might someday rival its financial power? Or will it decid
e to aid a developing nation and strengthen ties with a country that might be th
eir passport to an economically prolific Asia? Only time will tell.
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