M D Nalapat
Within a week, President Barack Obama will come to India on a three-day visit,” the most time that he has spent in a single country” since assuming office. It seems an age ago, but just four years ago, it was then Senator from Illinois Barack Obama who introduced a killer amendment to the Senate legislation ratifying the Bush-Singh nuclear deal. Some weeks previous to this effort, Senator Obama had met a small group of Indians visiting Washington in order to sound out legislators on the agreement. At the breakfast meeting, which was held at the residence of a prominent Indian-American Obama backer, the brilliant and very persuasive junior senator was transparent in his distaste at the attempt by George W Bush to give India the same rights in nuclear commerce as those states that had signed the Non-proliferation Treaty. Obama clearly saw India as undeserving of the privilege of nuclear commerce unless it first gave up its nuclear weapons, a view that he shared with the leaders of almost all of Europe, Australasia, East Asia and North America.
The only reason that the Nuclear Suppliers Group accepted the US contention that India merited a waiver was the steady and relentless pressure exerted by President Bush. To the final hours before the final NSG vote two years ago, Bush and Condoleezza Rice cajoled world leaders among the 45 member-states to ensure a unanimous decision favouring India. To the last, countries such as Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and China opposed the waiver, but finally fell in line because of the diplomatic blitz unleashed by President Bush. Had it been an Obama presidency, there would never have been an India waiver, for the incoming President of the United States has appointed a non-proliferation team whose members have spent much of their working lifetimes trying to get India to follow the advice given by Bill Clinton, which is to “cap, roll back and eliminate” its nuclear and missile deterrent. Although Clinton has got a bad press in India for such insistent advice, he may perhaps not have been aware that India was a country of more than a billion people in a very unpleasant neighbourhood. Or, if he was aware of this, perhaps he may have been willing to introduce legislation to permit a few tens of millions of Indian nationals to settle in the US, should a nuclear attack befall an India that disarms itself under his advice. Bill Clinton has visited India since demitting office as President, usually to paint the country as the endemic focus of either AIDS or as the prime candidate for a nuclear attack. These visits have been sponsored ones, one having as the host Amar Singh, one of the most colourful politicians in India, whose access to big money is as legendary as the wonderful time those attending his many soirees have.