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What could it mean for India?

What could it mean for India?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have received nothing <g data-gr-id="59">afresh</g> from President Barak Obama from his last hour-long meeting with the US president while <g data-gr-id="65">according</g> India’s full support to the US climate agenda. But, Pakistan Prime Minister is hoping to strike it really rich during his proposed 22 October meeting with Obama extracting an India-Iran style civil nuclear agreement with lately a more willing America. Talks between the two governments are on. The US had earlier rejected such a plea by Pakistan after it signed a treaty on <g data-gr-id="63">civil</g> nuclear programme with India in 2005. Paradoxically, top US officials now want America to keep itself more deeply engaged with Pakistan despite their critical analysis of the latter’s rogue state image and go ahead with a nuclear deal. They argue that a civil nuclear agreement with Pakistan will enhance the US engagement with Pakistan to keep a closer watch on the country. Other international policy watchers, however, feel <g data-gr-id="61">differently</g>. They say the possible US civil nuclear engagement with Pakistan is intended to please not only Pakistan but also Saudi Arabia while preventing Pakistan from getting closer to China on nuclear cooperation. The US does not appear to be really concerned about India’s apprehensions against such a deal.

Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, is Sunni-dominated. It was very upset when the US concluded the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with <g data-gr-id="49">Shiaite</g> Iran. Israel too was initially <g data-gr-id="58">unhappy,</g> but accepted the American position after a <g data-gr-id="50">top level</g> diplomatic dialogue and adequate US assurance. Israel and the US have long been strong friends with the US contributing substantially with financial and diplomatic support to ensure the birth of the Jewish state. But, the Saudi kingdom, which is protected by US armed forces, could not be convinced. Now, a civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan, the only Islamic country with nuclear bomb and <g data-gr-id="51">long range</g> missile armoury which is also close to Saudi Arabia, may break the ice. The move will certainly hurt the sentiment of India which has little reason to trust Pakistan. Regarded as an epicenter of global and regional terrorism, Pakistan is trusted by few countries. Pakistan has been pursuing a civil nuclear deal with the US for over nine years without much success.

The US move has certainly upset India. Several other countries, including some EU and G-7 members, are also concerned about the sudden US tilt towards Pakistan on civil nuclear cooperation ignoring the latter’s role in sheltering and protecting top functionaries of some of the most dangerous terror outfits and recruiting and grooming terrorists. All eyes are on the US as to how it reacts to the Pakistan president’s renewed plea in support of a US-Pakistan civil nuclear cooperation deal on the lines of the one the US inked recently with Iran. Reports <g data-gr-id="68">suggests</g> that America is exploring an option that could pave the way for a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan like the one concluded with India and Iran. The matter is expected to come up during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting with the US president on October 22. Both sides have so far kept the agenda on nuclear cooperation a secret. Interestingly, the US national security advisor has lately appreciated the Pakistan army’s role in the ‘war on terror’. A US NSA spokesperson has reportedly stated that the US encourages efforts to strengthen safety and security measures and continue to hold regular discussions with Pakistan on a range of global issues, including nuclear security, counter-terrorism and international norms. It is said that the US could place new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in return for “a version of the civil nuclear deal”. India is worried because Pakistan has little respect for international law and practices. It is well known that Pakistan’s former head of its nuclear programme, Dr A Q Khan, sold nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Pakistan acquired the missile technology from North Korea under an exchange programme. China and Russia are also said to be concerned over the latest nuclear overture between the US and Pakistan. However, India is most concerned by such a possibility as Pakistan continues to be a major source of terror attacks on India. Though it is not clear if India has raised the issue with the US government, sources say that India may wait till the outcome of the Sharif-Obama meet is officially known. Such a development will certainly erode India’s lately established trust and closer relations with the US. India’s hope for a US support for a time-bound United Nations reform and the country’s early membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Community would appear to be of little consequence. It may even mean a diplomatic shock for India’s prime minister after all his attempts to win President Obama’s confidence. India has been playing to the tune of the US since the days of the Congress-led UPA government which forged the US-India civil nuclear cooperation deal, ten years ago. 

Over the years, India has been steadily tilting towards the US on important diplomatic and economic issues. India has offered full cooperation to the USA on counter-terrorism, particularly in concluding the pending comprehensive convention on international terrorism. In his last meeting in New York with President Obama, Prime Minister Modi had sought the US support for membership of four global export control regimes. However, all these may look rather hollow if the US now engages Pakistan in 
a civil nuclear cooperation deal. 
Nantoo Banerjee

Nantoo Banerjee

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