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Not exactly a Vulcan pinch


Ashok Sharma New Delhi
Foreign policy analyst C Raja Mohan's new book, Impossible Allies: Nuclear India, United States and the Global Order, traces the origin and shaping of Indo-US relations over the George W Bush presidency. In doing so, it also looks into the opportunity for India and the US to forge an alliance based on a convergence of interests for the establishment of peace and order in Asia""acknowledged as a vital part of 21st century global stage.
The centrepiece of the relationship is the Indo-US nuclear deal of March 2006, and the author goes into the talks and negotiations between the Vajpayee and Bush regimes during 2001-2004 and the new factors in 2005 which set the foundation for this deal described as "historic" by Manmohan Singh.
This is no ordinary deal. In the US, it requires the overturning of nuclear proliferation law and the global nuclear regime, built painstakingly over three decades""all this to cater to the joint interests of India and the US.
Over ten chapters, Raja Mohan examines the principal factors driving the two great democracies towards each other, and how they are coming to form a larger power matrix. He explores the intensive dialogue between Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbott (parts of which were disclosed by the latter in a revealing book) that took place after India's nuclear test of 1998. He looks at the so-called Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) that were formulated as a frame for the Indo-US relationship in January 2004, an agreement that included a phased programme for high-tech trade and civilian space and nuclear co-operation within the constraints of US obligations and domestic law. Of course, the actual deal finally signed by India was far more substantive than anything the NSSP could possibly have conceived of. In part, this reflected the fact that the new Congress government that took office in May 2004 had an entirely different risk-return calculus for India's relationship with the US, and would therefore drive a much harder bargain.
In the chapter "Rice Brings a Vision", the author analyses the transformation of views in India about George W Bush and also Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, both of whom are seen to be architects of the declared US goal "to help India become a major world power in the 21st century". If that's not grand enough, the US went on to add, "We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."
The Pentagon's regard for India, accordingly, has gone up, and the author devotes at least two chapters to this new esteem in which the country's defences are held by the world's preeminent military force as a nation state. This interest is already evident in the frequency of "joint exercises" and the like.
Raja Mohan also evaluates the strengthening of ties in the context of global geopolitics, particularly as influenced by the threat to the current world order seen to be posed by as fast-emerging China as an independent force. India's demographics, democratic institutions, capital markets and world-class firms, says the author, make India the appropriate country to counter China's power in Asia. The fields of power projection in the region for the 21st century, by US calculation, could depend on the geopolitical dynamics over the next decade or so.
The book also casts an energetic look at India's success at tsunami diplomacy, the ten-year defence pact signed by Pranab Mukherjee and Donald Rumsfeld, and the concern displayed by the US about India's relationships with countries to its west.
In the chapter titled "Bush's Nuclear Revolution", Raja Mohan hails Bush's decision to reconceptualise the role of nuclear weapons in international security, in general, and India's role in ensuring global stability, in particular. Not since India's first Pokhran test in 1974 has the US made such a point to highlight how accommodative it is of Indian ambitions. With a separation of India's civilian and defence nuclear programmes, and the former placed under "international safeguards", India gains access to nuclear fuel""long denied to it because of the world's nuclear rules.
This book does not shy away from realpolitik, which is rare in the tiny arena of diplomacy writing. As with his previous book, Crossing the Rubicon (not to be confused with Michael Ruppert's fast-selling book), this book has the potential to stimulate further nuclear debate in the country. Can "impossible allies" turn into "possible allies"? That's the question that remains.
C Raja Mohan
India Research Press
Price: $35.95; Pages: 311

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First Published: Jun 16 2006 | 12:00 AM IST

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