Politics Now

India and the Nukes

Modi’s love affair with Japan seems to know no boundaries. In his second State visit to Japan in under two years, he has managed to ink a civilian nuclear power deal with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. However, as expected, there were instances of domestic resistance in both the countries: a people’s movement against nuclear plant establishment in India, while a general sentiment that nuclear deals should not be made with non-NPT (Nuclear Proliferation Treaty) states prevailed in Japan.

Although the former is a concern that can be tackled with the count of years, the latter is something to contemplate upon. Would the public opinion in Japan be more disposed to India’s cause if India were a member of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group? Is it not valid to speculate that Japan would have unilaterally decided to permit such a deal had India been a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Bilateral Nuclear Deals

The nuclear deal with Japan has come at a cost that can have dynamic ramifications. In a first of its type, India has explicitly highlighted that it would not conduct nuclear tests in the future. As per media reports, American firms dealing in nuclear technology have significant relationships with Japanese establishments of the same nature.  Commentators have brought out the fact that this bilateral agreement bears many resemblances to the 2005 nuclear deal under the Bush administration. The Indo-US deal was hailed as a game changer in the diplomatic circles, whereby India was not only implicitly recognized as a responsible nuclear state, but also transformed India’s image in the international sphere from a nuclear pariah to a partner. The Bush administration, as per opinions, broke the ice by finding a modus vivendi with India. However, an exception cannot be made everywhere.

The Japanese, on the other hand, also have strategic interests in concluding the agreement. The Sino-Japanese rivalry has only heated up in the last few years, whose credit primarily goes to heightened tensions over the South China Sea dispute. Even if we are to move past the nuclear deal, there are a thousand other ventures where Tokyo would like to cooperate with New Delhi. Take for instance the bullet train, a field where Japan is keen and enthusiastic to invest. All of this essentially boils down to an advantage for India, as it can now effectively snub Chinese attempts of regional ascendancy.

India’s desire to get into the NSG

It must be noted that India has been desperately trying to get into the exclusive NSG club, wherein it would have untold benefits as far as nuclear commerce is concerned. As mentioned earlier, an important consideration of this consortium is that the members must be a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India has not signed the treaty for it considers it discriminatory, and rightly so. At this juncture, there is a vital consideration. Should India up the ante to get into the NSG despite opposition from global players? If the answer to that is affirmative, there are perils attached to it.

India’s entry into the NSG as an independent exception cannot bear expected results from the Indian point of view. This is mainly because Pakistan, too, seeks a place in the association: and an unbiased exception is incredibly difficult to justify. China would then pester and lobby for Pakistan’s admission: and thus India’s cardinal intent of joining the NSG would be nullified. Geopolitical tensions are always a top concern in South Asia. A recent development in the form of Parrikar’s personal musings about how India should abandon the “no first use” of nuclear weapons policy would only act as yet another deterrent.

The Last Say

As of now, it seems unlikely that India would get a stamp of approval to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Henceforth, it would be worthwhile to ensure that India lives up responsibly to its image of a peaceful nuclear country. It would be demoralizing on a diplomatic level to vigorously canvas for India’s entry into the exclusive club and then get an outright rejection. Moreover, regardless of any inherent lack of logic, China would always play the rhetoric of “no exceptions”: for India would not sign the NPT in the foreseeable future.  In my opinion, the world would definitely watch how India shapes its strategy as far as the India-Pakistan strains are concerned, as a litmus test for India’s commitment to international conventions.  Thus, the only feasible way to get out of this tangible mess of affairs is to exercise careful restraint in actions on an international level.

The Trump Card

The Big Brother of the World has a new captain in the form of Donald J. Trump. In a sweeping and unanticipated win, Trump has been elected the forty-fifth president of the United States of America.  Claiming the Presidential seat has been a rather tumultuous ride for Trump- or for that matter, Republicans themselves- with the former having to battle a string of sexual assault allegations from women weeks before the elections, apart from the regular outrageous racial comments that provoked criticism from all quarters.

Critics have pondered over whether the world is preferring a transition from the unadventurous and hackneyed politics to choosing extremist politics whose very pillars lie on frustration and anger. Tapping into the subconscious fear has for long been a good way to convince people. The Trump campaign, based on the cornerstone of ‘Make America Great Again’ tried to exploit general concerns over security, and reinstill a sense of belief in the stereotypical ‘Great American Dream’.

Obama, who will be taking the exit to vacate the Presidential office for Trump and co., has said he prefers a smooth changeover. In an official White House release, Obama mentioned about the need to give the President-elect a fair opportunity to lead the people.

“We have to remember that we’re actually all on one team…We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first, we are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.” – President Obama, 9th of November, 2016.

The decision was expected to be tight, and indeed it was: the Presidential elections of 2016 would be one to remember for a long time ahead. Although the Democratic nominee won by popular vote, the Electoral College made the last-mile difference in choosing Trump as the inheritor of the White House. Primarily, both candidates had drawbacks. First, Trump had his bohemian way of looking at things. From suggesting a blanket ban on Muslims entering the States to proposing tight restrictions on rights of Latin Americans, he has done it all. Personality, however, proved to be his redeemer: for his image was more of an “I do what I do”-like than his comparatively tamer opponent, Clinton. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was in a spot due to unpardonable questions over her integrity in respect of the email scandal. Despite a whole host of celebrities putting their weight behind Clinton, her glittery speeches failed to gain considerable traction with the masses. And the result is what we presently have at hand: a Republican administration led by Trump at the commanding helm. After the election results were out, Clinton accepted her electoral defeat and echoed Obama. In a public tweet, she asked the populace to accept Trump with an open mind.

From an Indian perspective, questions can be raised on the new bilateral relations that would develop between Washington and New Delhi. Trump has had double standards as far as India is concerned: while he has acknowledged his desire to cooperate and work closely with the Indian government, he has also explicitly made clear his wish to repeal H1B visas. A lot of the Indian diaspora based in the States live on H1B working-class visas, and cutting off the H1B as part of chauvinistic reforms would definitely affect the community. However, there are positives to take as well from the result. Trump’s constant emphasis on eliminating terrorism in all of its ugly forms could result in stronger Indo-US defence ties. Consequently, closer defence ties would give birth to deeper trade relations, currently valued at almost $44.7 billion (2015).

Nevertheless, it is heartening to note that experts in the policy-making circles believe with a sense of complacency that irrespective of whatever temporal cracks that may develop, the bilateral Indo-US relations would be on a positive track. In stark contrast to the pages of history, America’s initial indifference towards India was soon washed away when it became evident that New Delhi could not be ignored if America were to protect her interests in South Asia. Also, Capitol Hill focused its lights on India in a special way after India stepped into the era of globalization, initiated by the late Prime Minister, Rajeev Gandhi. This touched the zenith when in 2005, under the Presidency of George W. Bush, the Civil Nuclear Deal was inked with the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

If we are to assess Trump’s foreign policy in sections that have Indian interests intertwined, we would find that it tilts by a good slant to favour India. His long-standing grudge against China would definitely reflect on the policies, including a probability of drawing sanctions for economic strong-arm tactics that Beijing often uses. Pakistan has woken up to a state of disillusional quandary: for it hesistates to go the distance, given the President-elect’s discountenance with Pakistan’s open secret of using terrorism as a State weapon against India. The threat of Islamic fanaticism and an increasingly authoratarian China also possess security challenges to both India and the States, which if handled well, could assure a safer world. On numerous fronts, he has lambasted Pakistan for being a harbour of terrorists and a safe haven for all activities underground. That is rightly evident from his official Twitter account.

On a personal front, it is my firm conviction, and I believe you would undeniably agree, that with great power comes along a sense of responsibility. The temptation of power is a lot like lust: it can lead people astray. However, when the baton has to be passed on to the next successor, the realization kicks in early: the President of the United States of America can never afford to have a happy-go-lucky attitude in complete disregard of official protocol. The American elections once again reaffirm how unpredictable the popular choice may be. And if all is well, we definitely have one line that sums it all:

Abki Baar, Trump Sarkar

Read also from the same author: India’s growing bonhomie with the United States (June 2016).