The visit of George Bush to India recently has been a landmark in a sense. It could be compared with the visit of Alexei Kosygin in 1970 when India and Soviet Union signed the treaty. The treaty has gone into limbo but at that time it created tremors in the Chinese leadership and shock waves in the U.S. administration.
It was then the ping-pong diplomacy was set into motion and President Nixon visited China. The geo-politics of the sub-continent then was strange with refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan pouring into Assamese border and the land angling for secession from Pakistan. A war-like atmosphere had developed with Pakistan accusing India of supporting the Bengal secessionists. The Indo-Soviet treaty had added fuel to the surcharged atmosphere with the U.S. and China blatantly supporting Pakistan.
The rest is history. Bangladesh became a reality but the price India had to pay in terms of supporting the refugees at home was huge. Now the geo-political situation is different with the threat of terrorism abetted by Pakistan looming like a large shadow on India. But the players in the arena are the same,albeit a reversal of roles compared to the 70s. Now the U.S. is confronted by militant Islam and seeks to buttress its relationship with India on economic and military lines. Russia is nowhere in the picture but the recent nuclear pact is likely to push up the insecurities of China. It is likely to align itself closely with the military regime of Pakistan and the Bangladesh government, perhaps get into similar
nuclear pact for energy needs. It will never be known whether there will be proliferation of nuclear capability.
The Indo-U.S. deal clearly says that import of uranium will be used primarily for augmenting energy capacity as India has been woefully dependent, like many others, on hydrocarbons and faces frequent power shortages. No doubt nuclear energy will strengthen the infrastructure as India is a coveted market for the West and U.
S.. Many firms in the U.S. are likely to use this to throw their nuclear technology into the Indian market and will be welcomed too. The deal also says India has the right to term the plants as civilian or military and there is no guarantee that uranium will not be used for military purposes. India's credibility, especially in the eyes of U.S., on non-proliferation is established unlike China. Hence on the face of it the deal is unimpeachable though it increases the risks of proliferation worldwide.
The nub is North Korea has already decided to go nuclear because of the premise that every country has its own security threat perceptions. This is a major reason why non-proliferation has remained an empty idea rather than reality. Will India remain independent in its foreign policy perceptions especially in the context of U.S. preoccupation with militant Islam? A question tied up with the geo-political situation in South Asia. India has a populat on of 80 million muslims and has a system based on individual franchise and legislative reforms.
Strangely enough valuable research had been going on for years into alternative energy systems - solar, biomass etc - but to no visible results. Nuclear energy has serious political and military implications and nobody is prepared to take all the assurances at face value. With terrorism across the border a serious threat the ramifications of this deal have to be weighed in the future.