A prize to bind nuclear India

A prize to bind nuclear India
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First Published: Sun, Oct 11 2009. 09 37 PM IST

Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Updated: Sun, Oct 11 2009. 09 37 PM IST
Prizes are usually given after the fact: Herta Mueller and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan first write about Romania or research ribosomes—they later get Nobels for their work. Then, there’s the strange occasion where a prize is awarded before the fact: US President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize for just dreaming to rid the world of nuclear weapons. If that dream comes anywhere close to becoming fact, India will find itself with nothing to celebrate.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
On the same day that Obama was awarded the Nobel, he sent a letter to the US Congress or “certification” under the US-India civilian nuclear deal. This certified that the US would work to “further restrict the transfers of equipment and technology related to the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel”.
There’s no cause and effect here as yet: US law requires this general certification. But what if there’s cause and effect in the future?
The Nobel is sure to give Obama affirmation about his ideas for a nuclear weapons-free world. The trouble is that he is unlikely to be able to get countries such as Iran and North Korea to back off from the path they’ve chosen. He is also unlikely to be able to get Russia and China to disarm before the US takes such steps. That leaves players such as India that are considered easy to arm-twist in this quest.
It’s no secret that the White House has pressured India in the last few months on this issue. Post-Nobel, there’s the danger this pressure will increase.
Part of this centres on the US Democratic Party’s perception of India as being “obstructionist”. While they kowtow to China, progressives refuse to acknowledge, unlike—and perhaps even in reaction to—Bush, the exception the civilian nuclear deal seeks to give India.
The other part centres on what US journalist Walter Lippmann observed in 1943 about the disarmament movement—that it had been “tragically successful in disarming the (very) nations that believed in disarmament”. India, as its no-first-use principle shows, shudders at the thought of deploying such weapons. Others don’t share that apprehension. Yet, India’s responsible behaviour makes it the low-hanging fruit the disarmament ayatollahs can pick on. The true rogue states are instead appeased.
India must resist these pressures and double standards. This means not only forceful diplomacy, but—in light of the US-India talks that recently commenced in Vienna over reprocessing nuclear fuel and that further facilitate commercial negotiations—also making sure it doesn’t rely too much on the US for materials or diplomatic favours.
Does a Nobel Prize for Obama spell trouble for India? Tell us at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Sun, Oct 11 2009. 09 37 PM IST