The Indian nuke deal moves forward, from the BBC:
The US House of Representatives has approved an agreement to share civilian nuclear technology with India.
The legislation must now be approved by the US Senate before being signed into law by President George W Bush.
The deal offers US nuclear technology to energy-hungry India in exchange for access to Indian civilian reactors.
Critics say the deal will hurt efforts to control nuclear arms, as the Indian government refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
An earlier BBC report in March told us:
Speaking at a news conference after the talks, President Bush said: "It's a necessary agreement. It's one that will help both our peoples.
"Congress has got to understand that it's in our economic interests that India have a civilian nuclear power industry to help take the pressure off the global demand for energy."
And he said "the US is looking forward to eating Indian mangoes", under an agreement to expand trade in farm products.
Nukes for mangoes? Not quite. Under the agreement, India will classify 14 of its 22 nuclear facilities as civilian. This leaves them open to inspection - with 8 closed to inspectors. Unless you want to call indian mangoes 'necessary', then there's something else going on here.
One might be strengthening the nuclear hand of the world's largest democracy in the face of N. Korea's growing nuclear program. But does India need the help on that front? Probably not. India's been nuclear since 1994 - that's a real head start. The DPRK probably wouldn't be able to close the gap anytime soon. India, although not a wealthy nation, has one hell of a lot more funding and resources than N. Korea. In a PDRK/Indian arms race, India wins - with or without US help.
But India is in a cold war with Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. While both countries are currently our allies, there's no reason to believe that this will be true forever. Pakistan is ruled by the dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf and is traditionally an islamic state. But Musharraf isn't going to live forever - especially not if hardline islamic extremists have their way.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, "The latest attempts [on Musharraf's life]--on December 14 and 25 --appear to be the work of the radical Islamic group Jaish-e-Muhammad (Army of Muhammad), according to Pakistani investigators. This group advocates Pakistani control over the disputed territory of Kashmir, which is split between Pakistan and India. Jaish-e-Muhammad is believed to have ties to al Qaeda and is alleged to have received support in the past from Pakistan's security services. Information contained in a mobile phone chip believed to belong to one of the bombers and found at the site of the second attack has led to the detention of some 40 Islamic militants. But experts say there is no shortage of other groups that might want to kill Musharraf."
According to Husain Haqqani, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the best hope for putting down islamic tendencies in Pakistan are democratic reforms. "Democratic consensus on limiting or reversing Islamization would gradually roll back the Islamist influence in Pakistani public life," he writes, "The Islamists would maintain their role as a minority pressure group representing a particular point of view, but they would stop wielding their current disproportionate influence over the country’s overall direction."
But democratic reforms without diplomatic pressure aren't freakin' likely. "The United States, for its own interests, cannot afford the current rise in Islamic militancy in a large Muslim country that has nuclear weapons capabilities, a large standing army, and a huge intelligence service capable of conducting covert operations to destabilize neighboring governments in the Persian Gulf, South Asia, and Central Asia," Haqqani tells us. In fact, pakistani islamic groups have a strong ties to Afghanistan's taliban. Imagine the taliban with nukes and you've got a good idea what Bush might be worried about.
Of course, the smartest thing to do would probably be to broker a peace between Pakistan and India, resolve the Kashmir question somehow, pressure Musharraf to institute democratic reforms, and get both sides to scrap their nuclear ambitions.
But that's not the easiest thing to do. The easiest thing to do is to throw more nukes in the mix. So that's what bush and congress will do.