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US will not cap Indian N-arsenal

Strategic analyst K Subrahmanyam expects that Bush is likely to surprise pessimistic Indians and make his visit the most memorable of all US presidential visits.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 18:48 IST
K Subrahmanyam (IANS)
K Subrahmanyam (IANS)

An extensive debate is being held in the country on the likely results of the visit of US President George W Bush.

There is a large section of opinion in the country that is burdened by the conventional wisdom, which expects that nothing very significant will emerge out of this visit.

It will be a repeat of the Clinton visit minus the charisma and charm exercised by Bill Clinton, so argue people of this school of thought.

They feel that the US intends to entrap India into capping its nuclear arsenal and into thwarting its fast breeder programme.

India, with its doughty Department of Atomic Energy leading the fight, will reject these American attempts.

Consequently, the two leaderships will have to paper over their irreconcilable differences and issue an anodyne joint statement full of platitudes. That is their expectation.

My expectation is that President Bush is likely to surprise pessimistic Indians and make this visit the most memorable of all American presidential visits.

He has staked too much of his reputation on the relationship with India and he cannot afford to fail.

If one may recall - of course most of our people cannot - the way in which (Henry) Kissinger and (Richard) Nixon wooed China in 1970-72, the US leadership is likely to go the extra mile to make the visit a resounding success.

At that time, Kissinger and Nixon were prepared to risk a war with India on the Bangladesh issue in order to win the confidence of the Chinese and establish their credibility as trustworthy friends.

Now all that is necessary for the US president to do is to accept the Indian plan on nuclear separation into civil and military and permit India to keep its fast breeder reactors outside the safeguards.

The Americans are well aware, unlike some of our columnists, that fast breeder reactors are not used for making weapon-grade plutonium.

They are advocating using reactors on a large scale to burn plutonium. The fast breeder reactor falls into this category.

It also generates more fissile material. While the US is sitting on mountains of plutonium and therefore has enough fissile material to burn for a long time, India needs to generate more fissile material even while burning up existing plutonium.

India has been a responsible state with a record of observing non-proliferation norms.

India also has been very restrained in its rate of weapon production. Therefore, one need not be surprised if the American president crusading for nuclear energy accepts the Indian scheme as it is offered.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 15:25 IST