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Making Friends with India

Prepared by: Esther Pan
June 7, 2006

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Congress is considering the revolutionary nuclear deal agreed to by President Bush and Indian President Manmohan Singh in July 2005 and announced formally in March. This Backgrounder examines the terms of the deal. Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and Teresita Schaffer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argue its merits and drawbacks in this Online Debate.

In a new Council Special Report, CFR fellows Michael Levi and Charles Ferguson say a few smart fixes to the deal would ensure an improved U.S.-India relationship without sacrificing American nonproliferation goals. They recommend that Congress accept the basic framework of the deal through a series of resolutions, while leaving itself the room to play a meaningful role in shaping the details of the legislation. Many nonproliferation experts took issue with just those details. Carnegie's George Perkovich tells Bernard Gwertzman that while the deal's goals of improved relations with India are praiseworthy, the specifics of the agreement are "very under-cooked and not well-considered."

Many experts say the deal, which would give India nuclear fuel in return for asking Delhi to open some of its nuclear facilities to international inspection, shows a dangerous double standard when the United States is simultaneously trying to prevent Iran and North Korea from processing nuclear fuel. Opposition is growing in Congress, where critics say the deal would send the wrong signals to Tehran (LAT). But CFR President Richard Haass writes that as a democracy committed to the rule of law and fighting nuclear proliferation, India deserves to be treated differently from Iran, which poses a far greater risk if it gains nuclear weapons. Former U.S. ambassador to India Robert Blackwill called the deal "a major departure" for American foreign policy and said it could be as significant as the opening of U.S. relations with China or the Soviet Union.

A May 16 conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace showcased both sides of the debate. A Congressional Research Service report on India's nuclear sequestration asks whether Congress has the assurances it needs that helping India with nuclear energy will not inadvertently aid Delhi's nuclear weapons program.

In America, the deal has sparked passion in the Indian-American community, which is using its nascent political clout (NYT) to lobby for a deal they see as recognition of India's rising great power status. This Backgrounder examines how the improved U.S.-India relationship could affect India's neighbor, China.

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