The collapse of the Indo-US nuclear deal would be an enormous setback for Indian aspirations for a greater global status. And the more obvious results would be a continuation of India’s stunted nuclear energy programme and technology sanctions.
The more significant consequence, says Dennis Kux, author of the authoritative history of the Indo-US relationship Estranged Democracies, would be that “people will question whether India is really ready for the international big leagues”. At a time when any bookshop in the world carries half-a-dozen books on the rise of India, the end of the deal would resurrect those voices who have argued India cannot be anything but the basketcase of Asia. European diplomats say the repeated crises that have beset the deal have led many foreign observers to question “whether India is really ready to be a great world power”.
<b1>The deal was a symbol of India’s arrival on the global stage, says Lisa Curtis, South Asia expert of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative thinktank. “The Leftists seem to have missed the fact” that a collapse due to domestic conflict “would be a setback for India’s reputation as an emerging global power”.
Anupam Srivastava, nonproliferation expert at the University of Georgia, agrees: “The deal’s failure would signal to the US and the world that India still lacks confidence to play a major role in the international stage… that it lacks the confidence to pursue and safeguard its interests in dealing with major world powers.”
Among other things, India would be seen to have undermined some its own self-proclaimed foreign policy goals. First, New Delhi has fought to get the rights of a de facto nuclear power for 40 years now. When it asked traditional friends Russia and France to help, they refused. China was hostile to anything Pakistan could not get. Even the US said no until George W. Bush’s second term. As Indian ambassador to the US Ronen Sen recently said, India being granted a single-nation exemption to an international regime “is unprecedented” in the history of diplomacy.
Second, India has long sought to delink its international fortunes from those of Pakistan. This deal did just that. The Left may think the deal is bad, but Pakistan is begging the US for something similar. “For the first time since 1954, the US has undertaken an accord with major security implications for India and rejected Pakistan’s request for a similar agreement,” says Kux.
The collapse of the deal would signal to the world that it is pointless to do New Delhi a big favour. “It will send a signal to future (US) administrations that Indian governments cannot be counted on to get support for agreements it accepts,” says AK Mago of the US India Political Action Forum.