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‘India agreed to buy US defence products in return for deal’

world Updated: Oct 26, 2011 01:47 IST
Yashwant Raj

Did India commit to buying more defence products from the US in return for the nuclear deal? Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice hints to a purported undertaking in her upcoming book on her years in the Bush administration.

“The Indians made it clear, too, that they hoped to become a customer for US military hardware,” Rice says in a chapter titled, “Building a new relationship with India.” The context of the Indian commitment was the nuclear deal.

India, Rice says, wanted nuclear energy and wanted to break out of the constraints imposed on it by restrictions on the US export of relevant technology, on account of its nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998.

“The proposed civil nuclear deal would make it possible for the United States and American companies to help India develop its potentially-rich market for this environment-friendly energy source.”

The US has faced disappointments on both counts. Its companies found themselves thrown out of the race for multi-billion dollars deal for the Indian Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft earlier this year.

And its two premium nuclear technology companies— Westinghouse and GE (both Japanese in one way or another)— have had no success in getting nuclear deals in India despite sites already earmarked for them. Lockheed and Boeing, the two aircraft giants, lost out on technical grounds. And the nuclear technology firms find the lack of competent accident liability laws the reason for staying out, and losing to Russian and French companies.

The US authorities and its non-government adjuncts in the think-tanks had reacted with surprising horror to the loss of the aircraft deal saying the US might have been “over-generous” and that India didn’t deserve the nuclear deal.

Or the promise of support for India’s claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC), committed by President Barack Obama on his visit to India in November 2010. (India is serving a temporary two-year term on the council).

Tempers have calmed down since, after India bought Boeing’s C-17 military transport planes worth over $4 bn.