From US’ viewpoint, the success of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with President Bush on July 18 in Washington rests on the three pillars of non-proliferation, more transparency in strategic and defence matters, and improved relations between India and Pakistan. Given that the Prime Minister Office is determined to ensure that the visit is a success, it is clear that India will go to any length to accommodate US’ concerns. In return, India expects some tangible movement on the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), especially after US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice’s visit to India in March when she said that the US will help India become a major world power in the 21st century. Even as this is unlikely, New Delhi will be more than satisfied with an early visit, preferably this year, of President Bush to India. This will help vindicate external affairs minister Natwar Singh’s claim that, “Relations with the US have never been better.” The moot question is at what cost?
Non-proliferation has two parts, one enunciated by the Clinton administration after India’s 1998 nuclear tests and vigorously continued by the Bush administration. President Bush outlined the second one in his major speech delivered at the National Defence University in Washington on 11 February 2004. Amongst other issues, it deals with the Additional Protocol to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the need for more countries to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
The Additional Protocol implies that only those countries that sign this would be allowed to import nuclear equipment, technology and material. Once signed, it would not be enough if India wishes to import nuclear material and equipment for peaceful purposes under international safeguards with the IAEA. It would become mandatory for India to abide by the provisions of the Additional Protocol with intrusive and expanded jurisdiction of inspections by IAEA officials. It is obvious that India should not blindly accept this Additional Protocol and make public those nuclear and technological facilities that are involved in nuclear weapons and missile programmes. For this reason, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is hesitant to even open up those facilities that are not involved in military purposes, as there is a thin line between military and purely civilian facilities. Moreover, once the Additional Protocol is signed, this would embolden the US through the IAEA to demand more transparency. Unfortunately, the PMO is reportedly pressing the DAE officials to accept the Additional Protocol as this will please the US and may translate into progress on the NSSP. India is also poised to sign the PSI that will cover inspection of shipments for illegal transfers of nuclear materials and technologies. This will require structured and greater cooperation between the intelligence agencies, military services and law enforcement agencies with implications that need to be considered in detail.