The Hindu reports today reports that China will take a "responsible attitude" towards the U.S.-India nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Groups (NSG).
In normal-speak that means, "We're not thrilled, but we're not vetoing it-- especially if you give us something too!"
So what would China want from India, in order to allay fears the U.S.-India nuclear deal represents a pro-U.S., anti-Chinese tilt on the part of India? (Remember Bush considers China a "strategic rival" in the region, and Congressmen of all stripes lauded such a development when approving the deal).
Why not a China-India nuclear deal?
That's what the Boston Globe reports:
China and India are poised to sign a civilian nuclear cooperation deal during President Hu Jintao's four-day state visit to the South Asian giant that begins today, Indian officials said yesterday, similar to the recent agreement between the United States and India.
The deal would foster the exchange and purchase of nuclear technology between the two emerging Asian powers, and is expected to be announced in a joint statement at the end of Hu's visit on Thursday, according to two officials familiar with the impending accord who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Now this comes as Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a visit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, as reported by Reuters' Simon Denyer.
Now as Denyer goes on to report, the two leaders plan no "spectacular agreements" and the two can't even get trade under control.
(Here are highlights for the visit:
- Free trade "not on the cards", NDTVProfit.com
- Hotline between their foreign ministries India-Asian News Service
- India has a significant population of Tibetans, who will be watching the talks closely, Human Rights Watch)
In fact, Denyer goes so far to say that "Chinese analysts [that nebulous term] say that Hu, who will visit Islamabad after India, may announce China's own nuclear cooperation deal with Pakistan as a counterbalance to the U.S.-India deal."
Such was the diplomatic rejoinder many expected, especially after the Senate passed the India nuclear deal last Thursday night.
What's going on?
My guess would be Indian officials pushing highly speculative predictions, in order to accomplish two things:
1) Look to China as less of a strategic threat
2) Shows its independence from the U.S. right after the final legislative hurdled was passed in the Congress
If this deal actually materialized before the final resolution is passed by the Senate and the House, the India-US deal might just be derailed.
But even the worry of such a deal will surely gives those vociferous, American proponents of the U.S.-India nuclear deal a much-needed dose of reality. Lavishing a country with nuclear fuel and technology won't "buy" America an ally.
In the meantime, the big thing to notice is China's downplaying of its past criticism.
It suggests that one big road block to the U.S.-India-- Chinese opposition at the NSG--deal has been averted.
But at what price?