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Proliferation Press

Friday, November 24, 2006

Proliferation Press News Roundup

"Did I Skip Over Pakistan?"
China & the U.S. India Deal According to Prakash Ambegaonkar: Trade Relations = Strategic Balancing

A good article by Dr. Prakash Ambegaonkar on the India-US nuclear deal. It delves into how the deal may affect trade calculus between these three countries; therefore it sheds light on what might be the real aim of the deal (winning over India on trade, and pushing China to do the same).

Thus it helps flesh out what is meant by U.S. advocates when they say the deal will make India an American partner in the region.

But the article left me after the first read going, "Okay...did I skip over the discussion on Pakistan?" So I re-read, and found that indeed there was not one mention of this country-- nixing much of the value of a still very useful approach to understanding the full contours U.S.-India nuclear deal.

The article's main warrant: India still plays the role neutral (or unaligned) power-- looking to take a little from all ends. It's other--more controversial warrant: All these three countries are fundamentally looking to find a mutually satisfying way to improve relations with one another.

The first warrant is on the money, highlighting something many supporters of the deal refuse to acknowledge: The deal doesn't buy Indian loyalty or fundamentally change their foreign policy. Hopes to turn India into a China-balancer/U.S. partner on par with Japan are just fantasy.

On the second warrant, while all these countries do want peaceful and profitable relations, the article forgets they each want it on their own set of terms.

But by moving beyond the zero-sum view on diplomacy so rampant in other accounts, the article reflects one of the better descriptions of the Indian diplomatic perspective. But its focus on trade undervalues the strategic rationale that propelled the deal from America's end.

Glaring omission: not one mention of Pakistan or the evolving Sino-Pakistani relationship.

(Note: such add-on criticisms are the softest of all, since no article can be exhaustive. But when ones throws China into the U.S.-India deal discussion, it's hard to forgive not giving Pakistan a seat as well at the ongoing diplomatic poker game between China, America and India.)

Leaving out Pakistan makes the "soft power" paradigm the article rests on appear to hold greater explanatory power than it actually does. The omission removes the need to refute clear cases of China balancing an ascendant India by lending Pakistan support. (Note: Pakistan doesn't mind taking from both ends; it enjoys significant American support-- lest it become a terrorist hotbed).

Pakistan is the most significant (and volatile) variable in the diplomatic equation. With it's weak regime, significant extremist support, nuclear armaments, and history of internal terrorism, Pakistan is the one powder-keg no one wants to-- but needs to-- imagine going off.


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