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Friday, October 03, 2008

Nuclear Deal Passed US Hurdle, But....

Bharat-US Relationship May Have Reached a High Point For the Near Future

Passage of 123 Nuclear Agreement between US and Bharat, by US, could be the high point in the relationship between the countries for a while to come. I think MEA may be in for a rude shock after January depending on who wins American presidency in November. With Bush, a genuine American friend of India, I think MEA and the entire Indian foreign policy establishment had it easy, at least after Colin Powell left Bush administration in 2004.

Here are the votes by party line on the Nuclear deal:

US Senate:

For - Republicans: 48 ; Democrats: 38
Against - Republicans: 0; Democrats: 13

US House:

For - Republicans: 178; Democrats: 120
Against - Republicans: 10; Democrats: 107

With the Barack Obama, presumably, likely to win US presidency in November, based on current polls, expect the State Department back in charge when it comes to relations with India. With the backing of majority Democrats (see the Democrats opposition to the Nuclear Deal above) in both houses, Obama, while may not be Jimmy Carter, who thumbed his nose at India during his presidential visit telling us what our national interests should be and how we should manage them (which ended up turning off Bharatiya foreign policy establishment for a long time with no visits by US president to the country for 20 years), will be close enough.

Indian foreign policy establishment had excellent access to White House, National Security Agency, and US Defense Department like never before in its history during Bush era. Obama will go back to the old days of traditional foreign policy wonks in the lead. One can see the disparity when negotiations were going on for the 123 Nuclear Agreement. With the State Department establishment skeptical with the deal, clearly US NSA was driving the negotiations with a host of background players like Amb. Blackwell and Ashley Tellis working the system to make get the agreement. While US Defense Department usually has its own foreign policy objectives, any future engagement with India MoD would likely be under the radar.

The most significant change that would shock Indian establishment would be the return of hyphenation. Obama wants to go after Land of the Pure - go after terrorists in its Northwest Frontier Province. And only way to appease Pakistani tantrums, if Obama follows up his words, would be to put Bharat back on the same pedestal as Pakistan. Also expect Chinese appeasement by US to reach a new high. Any talk of US projecting Bharat as counterweight to China, even if we were interested in doing so, would probably stop.

On the other hand, if McCain wins, however unlikely, the relationship between the two nations, with his rhetoric about League of Democracies and strong support for the nuclear deal from day one, will probably take off to new heights. If the right people are in New Delhi, I won't be surprised if we become much more integrated with US - militarily, economically, and strategically.