Saturday, July 5, 2008

US India Nuclear Agreement and the New York Times

Today, the New York Times, the bastion of liberal thought in the mainstream press, has published an editorial that is not only offensively patronising but outrageous in its mendacity. It begins by admonishing Mr Bush for rushing into a "far-too-generous" nuclear deal with India and advises him to slow down the approval process. Apart from sounding as if the New York Times is in daily contact with Comrade Karat, it makes a few statements which, to put none too fine a point to them, are simply incorrect. Let's look at some of these (Let me clarify that I am no expert on the nuclear deal which seems to have as many interpretations as there are commentators. However, nothing I say here requires me to be an expert).
  • It accuses India of "illicit pursuit of nuclear weapons" The dictionary defines illicit variously as not legally permitted or authorized; unlicensed; unlawful. Whatever be the merits of the nuclear test that India carried out (and in the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I think it was one of the more fatuous acts of the BJP Government then in power), nothing that the Indian Government did was unlawful or unauthorised. Even India's worst enemies have not accused her of having a A. Q. Khan kind of network, peddling and buying nuclear secrets and materials. Whatever weapons grade uranium/plutonium India produced was done secretly but not illegally. India has had an exemplary record in non-proliferation of nuclear material and technology even though we are not signatories to the NPT.
  • It goes on to accuse Bush of extracting "no promise from India to stop producing bomb-making material. No promise not to expand its arsenal. And no promise not to resume nuclear testing". I think it is important to remind the Times that no sovereign country would ever agree to make such over-arching promises for perpetuity. What a country can promise is not to divert the nuclear material it buys for its power reactors, to its bomb making program. And I believe India has done exactly that and even opened up its civilian reactors to inspections.
  • "At a minimum, they must insist that international suppliers halt nuclear trade if India tests another nuclear weapon" This apparently is already part of the US India nuclear deal so the Times is harping on a non-sequiter. However, what has always amazed me of the nuclear powers and particularly of the US is that they find nothing wrong in allowing themselves the right to test nuclear weapons at their convenience but are not willing to grant the same right to those outside their self-proclaimed nuclear club. An infantile wish to remain exclusive in the ability to destroy the world many times over.
  • "must insist that India accept the fullest possible monitoring of its civilian nuclear facilities by I.A.E.A. inspectors." Well, excuse me but isn't this exactly what the agreement envisages? Aren't we getting a bit repetitive here, sir?
  • "The United States must ensure that any rule the suppliers’ group adopts for selling technology to India is not weaker than anything already in American law. Otherwise, New Delhi will be able to end run Washington and buy technology and fuel from states — like Russia and France — that are even more eager for the business and even less punctilious than this country." With this one statement, the Times exposes the ugly face of the smug, self-satisfied American riding rough shod over the rest of the world. It condemns not just India but France and Russia (why not China -- oops, sorry they are supposed to sell to Pakistan) as ne'er-do-well's, unprincipled and amoral countries, possessing none of the grand vision, morals and principles of the United States of America. Perhaps journalistic memory is woefully short -- wasn't it the United States which started various unprovoked wars in Iraq, in Vietnam, bombed a few other countries including a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, and doesn't it continue to be the only country in the world to have ever used nuclear weapons against a civilian population? Not that the other members of the nuclear club are so innocent, but the US is hardly in any position to preen iself over such issues. What about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and renditions? Do they show up the US as a principled country that follows international law?
The editorial winds up by actually asking Bush to forge closer ties with India but not make the nuclear agreement the centrepiece of the relationship. In other words -- they might bring some business our way so be friends with them - just make sure they don't get too big for their boots.


Chris Jeub said...

Great post. You may be interested that homeschoolers in the NCFCA are debating India policy for 2008-2009. Resolved: That the U.S. should significantly change its foreign policy toward India. See I write the Blue Book, the debater's sourcebook for the topic.

AMOK said...

Why take offence at the editorial? It is simply pointing out that the incompetence in the highest offices in the US extends to decisions about the nuclear agreements with India. Heaven knows what may happen in the future, Iran after all does not toe the US line but is friendly with India and not so with Israel. Throw in the rumblings about attacks and counter attacks in the Middle East and you see the genesis of the Editorial. The bastion of liberal thought does not extend uniformly in all directions.

Of course the fears, as this esteemed blog notes, are ill-founded and India would never peddle or proliferate. No ideological forces would drive such a proliferation outside India.

One parting thought. If India were to command such global military and economic power as does the USA, would the writings from this hypothetical country be any less offensively patronising and outrageous than what we read in the New York Times?

Rahul Basu said...

No AMOK, if indeed India reached those heights, and had newspapers strongly cautioning India from entering into agreements with tinpot countries (Sri Lanka? Ghana?, the US!!!) the reaction would be similar. It's the price one pays for being the world bully.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Here's a contrary view, by Bill Emmott (former editor-in-chief at The Economist), in the other major US newspaper.

AMOK said...

Rahuls (Sire and non-Sire) thanks for your insights, especially the Washington Post article.

Sire, what this humble bloggerino was suggesting is that India too would speak from the world bully pulpit, if she could, and with the same lack of innocence (or worse) that you correctly attribute to the USA. If you are willing to undergo a brief religious conversion may this blogger suggest "Hate the sin, not the sinner".

AMOK said...

So do the Iranians ACTUALLY say things like "our finger is always on the trigger" or these are deliberate mis-translations by the English language media? For example, when Dubya says "we do not rule out any options" this is the same as "my finger is always on the trigger". Maybe the Irain-eons translate that into Persian as "trigger-happy Dubya" but we don't know. Any expert comments?