Even as the government is grappling with its coalition partners to salvage the Indo-US nuclear deal, few have asked the fundamental question: If the deal is transparent and good for both sides, why has it taken two uncertain years to sign the 123 Agreement? While there was the mutual desire to sign the deal, the differing perspectives on why the deal is good could simply not be wished away. According to India’s National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan, “we (India) want to look at the civil nuclear cooperation agreement as a standalone. It has nothing to do with anything else.” The US disagrees with this approach because it wants India fully in its embrace.
A key US interlocutor on the deal, Ashley J. Tellis writes that ‘the administration would not only take a major step towards strengthening India’s geopolitical importance, but would increase its enthusiasm for contributing towards counter-proliferation activities in the Indian Ocean, buttress its potential utility as a hedge against a rising China, encourage it to pursue economic and strategic policies aligned with the US interests, and shape its choices in regard to global energy stability and environmental protection.’ Not for nothing, US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice during her maiden 16 March 2005 visit to New Delhi publicly declared that, ‘the US will help India become a major power.’
Narayanan of course is not too pleased by her (the US) blunt approach. More recently, when after the 123 Agreement, Rice made the call for India to ‘forget NAM, forget your friends,’ Narayanan was unhappy. He felt that the same thing could have been said as, ‘now there are two blocs. I suppose there are opportunities to look at things differently.’ Here then is the problem. While the US as a global power and a world leader cannot and does not underplay its motives nor mince its words, India continues to behave like an unsure power. This endemic uncertainty probably stems from not squaring up to the reality.