Indians were Greedy that Day: US-India Nuke Deal

This is a very informative report in a Pakistani paper on the recent US-India Nuke deal. It is rather interesting to read it in a paper across the border! The original report seems to have been carried in the “Washington Post”. A must read


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the true architect of the Indo-US nuclear cooperation treaty, which, according to a detailed investigative report in the Washington Post on Monday, now faces a hard sell in Congress.

Rice is the one who convinced President Bush that India should be helped into becoming a major power in the 21st century as a counterpoise to China. Rice, whose academic work was confined to Warsaw Pact countries, the Soviet Union and the Cold War, has continued to maintain, what observers here see a Cold War mindset. Her influence on Bush is considerable. In personal terms, she remains his closest confidante. The nuclear deal was worked out in a highly secretive manner by American and Indian officials and no key congressional leader was taken into confidence, an omission that will come to haunt the agreement as it goes for approval on Capitol Hill. Even nuclear experts within the administration were kept at an arm’s length.

The Post report by Glenn Kessler says that it was Rice who flew into New Delhi a year ago and set in motion a revolution in US policy on nuclear weapons and relations with India.

She didn’t tip her hand publicly during the brief stop, sticking to bland expressions of a new relationship with ‘great potential’. The outlines of her plan were known by only a handful of people in the US government, he adds. The agreement with India was described by one of Rice’s aides as the “big bang” designed to bring non-aligned India into the American camp. The deal, according to the report, has spawned fierce controversy in Washington, in part because going forward would require Congress to change laws for the nuclear sales. Rice will defend the agreement in congressional testimony this week”.

The Post report, based on interviews with 20 people, both Americans and Indians, with knowledge of the negotiations, says the agreement with India is in trouble partly because there was little consultation with Congress or within the foreign-affairs bureaucracy before it was announced. Government nuclear experts were excluded because of their expected opposition. In 2000, Rice wrote in a magazine article, India is not a great power yet, but it has the potential to emerge as one, noting that India is an element in China’s calculation, and it should be in America’s, too. Robert Blackwill, former ambassador to India, was one of Rice’s closest aides at the National Security Council, and did the groundwork in Delhi. Also associated with the preparatory work was Indian-American Carnegie expert Ashly Tellis.

The Post report says that when the US decided to sell F-16s to Pakistan, Rice flew to New Delhi to break the news and cushion the blow by offering India the prospect of a broader strategic relationship, including military, economic and even nuclear cooperation. Rice’s presentation, while still vague about the specifics, sent shockwaves through New Delhi. A key designer of the new approach was Philip Zelikow, Rice’s counsellor and longtime colleague. Upon Rice’s return from Asia, Zelikow began exchanging memos with Tellis, resulting in a 50-page action agenda for US-Indian relations completed in mid-May. The paper promoted geo-strategic cooperation between the two countries rooted strongly in US defence and military sales to India as a way to counter China’s influence. Zelikow is quoted as having said that the new India policy’s goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century. We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement. John R Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, who would have been sceptical of the India deal, was got out of the way, obviously, by being nominated UN ambassador. The Pentagon, fully backed closer relations with India.

Another official associated with the deal was John D Rood at the National Security Council. The Post report goes on to disclose, Leading the non-proliferation interests of the administration, Rood and Joseph envisioned a deal in which India would, among other things, agree to limit production of plutonium to a level that ensured the minimal deterrent capability it sought. The two nuclear experts also wanted India to place all of its electricity-producing reactors under permanent safeguards to be monitored by UN inspectors. Such an arrangement would ensure, in accordance with US law, that any American technology going to India would not be used for its weapons programme. But by the time US negotiators agreed on a number of requests – just days before Singh’s arrival on July 18 – many of the key items on the Joseph-Rood list had been taken off the table, said senior officials who were involved. ‘We never even got to the stage where we could negotiate them, one official said. The Indians had already made clear to (Nicholas) Burns in discussions weeks earlier that they were not interested in outside influence over their nuclear weapons programme.

Few Indian officials expected a breakthrough during the Bush-Singh meeting in July, but Rice was determined to see the negotiations succeed. Bush had reached the conclusion that the nuclear concerns carried less weight than the enormous benefits that a broad partnership with a large and friendly democracy could bring. Burns, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and other officials conferred for nearly three days. From the start, the conversations were tense as it became clear that the US goals were not what India was hoping to hear. One by one, Indian negotiators balked at requests, indicating they would walk away before accepting conditions for inspections and other safeguards. Rice went to Saran’s suite in the Willard Hotel on Sunday, July 17, to provide a final push. At 6pm, she and Burns thought they had an agreement, but then Saran called Burns at 10:30pm, saying the deal was off – it was too much politically for the Indian government to swallow all at once. On Monday, July 18, the morning that Singh was to meet with Bush, Rice called Burns at 5:30am and said, We’re not going to give up. She met with Singh at 8am and persuaded him to let the negotiators try again.

A senior official told the Post, They (the Indians) were really demanding that we recognise them as a weapons state. Thank God we said no to that, but they almost got it. The Indians were incredibly greedy that day. They were getting 99 percent of what they asked for and still they pushed for 100. The report points out that although the Bush administration originally wanted a pact that would let India continue producing material for six to 10 weapons each year, the plan would allow it enough fissile material for as many as 50 annually. One US official involved in the negotiations said the failure to consult with Congress or to build support for the agreement within the bureaucracy has created lasting problems, The way they jammed it through is going to haunt us.

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