Standing beside Pervez Musharraf, an ally in the war on terror, President Bush explained how he told him Pakistan would not be getting the same aid in developing peaceful nuclear power that Bush had just promised to India:
"I explained that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories. So as we proceed forward, our strategy will take in effect those well-known differences."
Bush was bluntly saying India is a democracy we can trust not to spread nuclear technology, but we’re not sure we trust you. After all, your boy A.Q. Khan was running a Home Depot for A-bomb technology.
Unstated message: We’re not sure any nuke technology we give you, Pervez, will not end up in an al-Qaida madrassa. For there is no guarantee you will be around that long, Pervez, given your enemies have tried to kill you four times and elections are to be held in 2007.
If Musharraf feels he was asked to come through the service entrance and given the bum’s rush, who can blame him?
While even his greatest admirers do not confuse Bush with Bismarck, what the president did on his Asia tour seems inexplicable.
In the Cold War, India aligned with Moscow and repeatedly fought a smaller Pakistan that was our friend. In the war on terror, no ally has taken greater risks than Musharraf. While both India and Pakistan refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India was first to break faith with a West that gave it nuclear technology and the first to test nuclear weapons.
Why, then, did Bush agree to transfer U.S. nuclear technology only to India? In so doing, he insulted an ally and blew a hole right through the NPT regime on which we stand to make our demands on Iran and North Korea?
Apparently, at an all-night session on the last night in India, the U.S. negotiators capitulated to all of India’s demands, lest Bush leave New Delhi with nothing to show for a trip halfway around the world but an agreement to import mangoes.
What did Bush give — and get?
India will be given the same access as Japan to U.S. technology and nuclear fuel, which will enable India to divert its fuel to weapons.
India agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect 14 of its 22 nuclear facilities, while eight, military in nature, are off-limits. This is a like a college president agreeing to let cops search the dorm for a stash of marijuana — as long as they stay off the sixth, seventh and eighth floors.
Would the United States permit Iran, which signed the NPT and has allowed IAEA inspections of all known nuclear facilities, to agree to a deal like this? No way. We don’t trust them — but we trust a democratic India that already has the fruits of its past deceit, a nuclear arsenal.
Unilaterally, Bush has decided that democracies who refuse to sign the NPT and secretly build, test and maintain nuclear weapons will be exempt from the laws. Nations we do not entirely trust, like Pakistan, get no help. Nations we detest, like Iran, face sanctions and preventive wars.
While Pakistan was sent to the back of the bus, this was a triumph for India. Bush got nothing but press clippings for his presidential scrapbook.
What happens now?
Israel, which has also refused to sign the NPT and has 200 to 300 nuclear weapons, will demand the same nuclear technology that India got. On what grounds can Bush deny Israel?
And while Bush may grant exemptions from U.S. law and the NPT regime for countries he views as friendly and democratic, China is likely to provide similar aid to its friends, democratic or not, and step into the breach Bush opened with Pakistan.
Iran will use the U.S. concessions to India to show U.S. hypocrisy. For unlike New Delhi, Tehran signed the NPT, agreed to open up its nuclear facilities and never tested a bomb. On this one, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey is right: "America cannot preach nuclear temperance from a barstool."
That Bush decided to end decades of estrangement between America and India, and make her a friend and partner, letting Cold War bygones be bygones, is commendable. But why did we have to pay a price for India’s friendship? Economically, India sells twice as much to us as she buys, and outsourcing benefits her workers, not ours.
As for India being a counterweight to China, we don’t have to pay for that. With Muslims to the east and west, Chinese to the north, and Maoists in Nepal, India needs us more than we need India.
Nor is New Delhi so foolish as to allow herself to be dragooned into some NATO-like U.S. alliance to encircle or contain China. She has good lines to nations not exactly our friends: Iran, Syria and Cuba.
In New Delhi, Bush traded a horse for a rabbit, and some of us are wondering as to the whereabouts of the rabbit.