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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                  Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)


CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

Seminar Summary Report


  As compiled by Shri A Madhavan, former ambassador of India and a current member of Asia Centre;

  3 June 2006 IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1


 Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars and discussions to review India’s Security environment in the Sub-continent. As a  final leg  of this of Series, a seminar was held on 03 June  2006 from 10 A M to 1 P M on the topic “Changing Contours of Indo- US Relations:  Challenges  Risks  And Opportunities” at the I A S Officers’ Institution, # 1 Infantry Road, Bangalore. The seminar was presided by Shri A P Venkateswaran, former Foreign Secretary and chairman of Asia Centre. 

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion session. Nearly 45 Asia Centre members and invitees drawn from retired officers of Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service & Defense Services, academics and scientists attended the seminar.

The following distinguished speakers addressed the seminar: -


"A strategic reviewby

Shri Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies, Center for Policy Research, New Delhi


"A historic perspective" by 

Amb. N. Krishnan, Former Ambassador and India's Permanent representative at UN Head quarters, New York.

"India's options in the global senario                                                                                          Lt. Gen S.S Mehta (retd.). Former GOC-in-C Western Command, Currently Member National Security Advisory Board and Principle Adviser CII

"Indo-US core interests" by                                                                                                              Shri Aravind Sitaraman. Computer Scientist & Founder of Think Tank, “The Indian Analyst at

This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.


Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ravi Eipe, Director of Asia Centre, welcomed the speakers and   audience and explained the context and purpose of the seminar. US and India are unequal powers and  the seminar should focus on the following two aspects. Firstly, is there a lurking fear that India may become the surrogate of US interests in our region? Secondly, on the flip side, is there merit in the argument of some observers that the US has a strategic need for India ’s role in stabilising the region after their unhappy experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan ? Can India exploit such a need?

Shri A.P. Venkateswaran, Chairman of Asia Centre, introduced the seminar as the last in the series held by the Centre on India ’s relations with Bangladesh , Sri Lanka , Pakistan and Nepal .  This seminar is held at a time when the relations between India and the US have improved and a basis of friendship has been laid.  Lt. Gen. Eipe introduced each of the four speakers in turn. A brief account of the four presentations and the discussion is given below.

A Strategic review

Dr. Brahma Chellaney, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi :  He recalled a recent survey of opinion by the BBC which showed that the US was regarded as a friendly country by a greater percentage of the people polled in India than in other countries, including Britain .  Since the early1950’s, when circumstances seemed favourable for friendly relations between India and the US , the two chose divergent paths.  Now there is a notion that the two can cooperate in a global partnership rather than within a bilateral frame, since that would help long-term stability and equilibrium.  The self-interest of each country also plays a part.  This new warmth has improved India ’s image in the world.  The two countries are seen as friends rather than allies.  India is for a process of engagement with the US , seeking to augment our economic and defence strength.

There has been a shift in India ’s foreign policy.  The UPA government headed by the Congress party has adopted the BJP government’s approach of turning to and befriending the US for support.  One sign is defence cooperation between the two countries, involving the sharing of intelligence in certain areas.  India is making a major shift: on the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), India has accommodated the US view to some extent.  Consider, for example, its Act to prevent the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2005 and the nuclear deal with the US , envisaged in July 2005 which was reconfirmed during President Bush’s visit in March 2006, apart from several areas identified as prospects for their global partnership.  Among them are cooperation in commerce, finance, energy, knowledge dissemination and research.  More moves may be expected covering: 1) logistical support for the US military in South Asia , 2) major defence transfers (sale of US arms to India ) running into billions of dollars, 3) induction of India into the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) pioneered by the US .  India may have to give way to the US in its policy to Nepal . (Events in Nepal have moved fast since this seminar, with a provisional government that is set to make way for an elected constituent assembly and an army serving the elected government, not an authoritarian monarchy).  Likewise, India must live with the American softness towards a less than democratic Pakistan . The US has acquiesced in Pakistan ’s decision not to allow A.Q. Khan to be interrogated by outsiders, without a whimper from India , affected though it is by Khan’s reckless proliferation actions.  US military aid to Pakistan , $370 worth of sophisticated arms in a fresh package, has to be tolerated quietly, although it includes Harpoon missiles, which are likely to be targeted only against India .  All this amounts to a gradual re-alignment of Indian policy.  On Iran , we have bowed to US pressure by voting against that country twice in the IAEA, at the cost of losing an agreed deal on the supply of Iranian LNG.

A closer Indo-US engagement is on, with the US wanting constancy in commitment, while it confines itself to promises.  This is due to India ’s quest for status as a major power.  It induces a psychological dependency by India on major powers, which enables them to play on this weakness.

Is there any perceptible shift towards India by the US ?  Not really, for it is a top-down policy move by the beleaguered US president in his ‘lame duck’ phase, not part of the policy structure.  The New York Times correctly observed that President Bush was treated like a maharaja in India , unlike the reception accorded to him at home.  The US National Security Strategy Report, published earlier in 2006, (the first since 2002), noted US-Indian divergences in five out of eight areas of partnership.  On global terrorism, it paints Pakistan as the victim of terror, without conceding that India is one too.  In the section,  “forging partnerships for the war against global terror”, India is not mentioned as a partner.  In “promotion of liberty”, America ’s target regimes for change do not figure as targets in India ’s world-view.  President Bush’s speech at Purana Qila, New Delhi (March 2006) clearly revealed that the US is aiming for a regime change in Iran and Myanmar , which is no part of Indian foreign policy.  For India , Iran has a strategic importance in its relations with the Central Asian republics.  Iran balances Pakistan .  India cannot sacrifice its Iran interest for America ’s benefit.

The US has not changed its restrictive approach towards India in some important respects.  1) Despite the scheme, ‘Next Steps in Strategic Partnership’ (NSSP), India continues to be given more stringently limited access to the high-tech items it needs than is China .  In space cooperation, the US offer of a couple of instruments out of 15-20 for the Indian moon probe called Chandrayaan 1 is merely symbolic.  The EU has provided three instruments and Bulgaria one, without the fanfare given to the US .  Some Indian space department factories are unfairly kept on in the US ‘entities list’.  India is not treated equally with Israel by the US in this regard.  The Americans use the small concessions they make as bargaining chips.

US policy towards Pakistan and India conspicuously reveals its true nature.  The American arms given or promised to Pakistan are likely to be targeted at India , not the Taliban in the Pakistan-Afghan border region. They include 10 PC3 Orion aircraft for maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine missiles, usable on India ’s western flank.  The so-called ‘hyphenation’ of India and Pakistan has given way to parallelism, in the sense that Pakistan is to be favoured step-by-step for any defence technology benefits that India will be accorded.  This is the American conception of balance of forces in the subcontinent.  India and Pakistan are both offered F-16 aircraft; India can buy C1 transport planes, all at a high cost.  In result, India cannot expect to have a military edge against either Pakistan or China to deter possible threats from them.  By its active interest in the Indo-Pak peace process, the US will be in effect selling arms to both to sustain its own defence industry.  Its intelligence will also gain a better footing thanks to parallelism.  In effect, the US equates India with Pakistan .  It plays to India ’s ego and ambition to be a world power while pampering Pakistan ’s craving for security.  There is a patronising air about the US call for comprehensive cooperation with India .  But the US is cool to India ’s bid for a seat in the UNSC and for India ’s participation in the G-8 summits.

The nuclear deal has become a complicating factor in the bilateral relationship.  The import of American nuclear reactors is not in India ’s economic interest.  Each reactor could cost $ 14-20 billion.  The megawatts of electric power they can generate would be a fraction of India ’s needs at best.  Besides, the deal as envisaged would limit India ’s nuclear deterrence.

The US has had a consistent strategic doctrine for Asia over years.  It will hedge its options and seek a balance of power while retaining a major force capability in the region.  In the present phase, Vietnam and India have been marked for a new thrust in US policy in Asia .  The US aims to be in the centre.  China is allowed to be a stakeholder, but a lesser one.  There is a dualism in American policy: it wants engagement with China , while also hedging against a hostile China .  Sino-American relations are deeply intertwined because of trade and currency maladjustments.  China wants to continue its large consumer exports to the US : it has already accumulated huge dollar assets which are reflected in US debt, thereby propping up the dollar value and enabling the US to retain a monetary regime of low interest rates.  China wants to press on with its rapid military modernisation plans; meanwhile it suits the US to focus on high value productivity.

Rivalry between China and Japan has flared up again.  This is good for the US , which values the role of being arbiter in Asia .  The US does not aim to use India as a counterweight to China , as some Indian observers exaggerate.  For the US , a durable partnership must be built on shared national interests, not on democracy as a form of government.  India cannot be like post-war Japan or Germany in accepting a protective relationship with the US .  Those two countries were defeated and devastated, having little option for independence in foreign policy.  ( US Ambassador Mulford made a telling comment that India made a mistake in teaming up with Germany for its bid to gain a UNSC seat).  But India need not accept a subservient relationship with the US .

India ’s three-fold goals should be (1) to protect itself and expand its strategic space;  (2) maintain independence; and (3) pursue comprehensive national development.  India need not confront the US .  It is never easy for a lesser or smaller power to steer its relations with a major power.

A historic perspective

  Ambassador N. Krishnan:

The US and India have a love-hate relationship.  Independent India found goodwill among Americans, but relations between the countries were beset with disappointment and frustration on our side, matched by annoyance and neglect on theirs.  Personal differences among the leaders also led to the two drifting apart.  Now, after fifty years, the same pattern may be repeated.  The US now seems to have rediscovered India as a rising power.  Indians have reacted with delight at one level and suspicion and apprehension at another level. The new relationship is described as a ‘strategic partnership’, which is seductive, suggesting that both countries are on the same side, though it is not an alliance against any other country.  It opens beguiling perspectives over many areas of cooperation, including high tech in defence, nuclear power, and space.  It also suggests closeness in dealing with global issues.

The speaker explained how the initial goodwill soured on both sides.  India being governed as a constitutional, multicultural democracy with guaranteed rights for citizens under the rule of law was a common bond.  But divergences emerged in foreign and economic policy.  India would not be aligned with the US in the cold war period.  Americans perceived India as pro-Soviet, and hence chilled in their attitude to us.  India’s adoption of a planned economy with a strong public sector and its approach to the NPT, followed by the Pokhran test of 1974 alienated the US against us.  Pakistan became a lynchpin of American policy from the time of CENTO.  In relation to US interests in South Asia, India and Pakistan were hyphenated.  US leaned towards Pakistan on the Kashmir issue and supplied weapons to that country, overruling our protests.  In the Bangladesh crisis of 1971, the despatch of the US warship ‘Enterprise’ to the Bay of Bengal angered Indian opinion and strengthened the view that the US could look at India only through the prism of Pakistan.  The US denial of uranium fuel for the Tarapur reactor, in violation of the bilateral agreement, was a breach that Indians minded.

Since the cold war ended about 1989, global equations changed dramatically, affecting Indo-US relations also.  Paradoxically, the Pokhran nuclear test in 1998, although it upset the NPT, brought about a change in American thinking on India and its regional and global position.  In the George Bush administration, the neo-conservatives have been designing a new vision of the world in which India is accorded a prominent role.  This has considerably boosted bilateral relations.

In this framework, India is not billed as a counterweight to China, but as a promising partner for the US, on account of India’s constancy as a democracy which is on track in liberalising its economy; this offers prospects for American business and investment in the knowledge and IT sectors as well as industry and trade.  India’s large reserve of skilled professionals is a further attraction.

In a talk by Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State in October 2005, he observes, “Successive administrations in Washington and Delhi approached each other alternately with episodic engagement on the one hand, but with wariness on the other.”  He notes that past estrangement is turning into engagement. He quotes President Bush to support the idea of “India’s arrival as a force in the world” in economic, political and strategic capacities, a country set to become a major centre of global power.  Bush further observes that the economic and political focus of the global system will shift eastwards to Asia, and that the US-India relationship will be developed in this context.

India should naturally welcome this trend, which gives it the advantage of emerging opportunities.  Both countries can benefit from cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Several agreements have been signed since 2004, when the NSSP was launched to build up mutual trust in sensitive areas like defence, space, nuclear energy, high-tech, dialogues of business executives and people to people interaction.  More Indian students have chosen the US rather than other countries for higher education.  In the US there are nearly two million people of Indian origin, many of them highly regarded professionals.

Indians have reacted with more emotion than Americans on the shift in relations.  Opponents have raised anti-US slogans and the other side has reacted, zealously proclaiming greater merit in American actions and statements than is warranted.  The nuclear deal in particular has provoked a heated debate.

Doubts about the deal were voiced soon after it was signed.  Official reticence combined with partisan self-congratulation deepened the doubts.  When details of the Indian plan for separating civilian and other nuclear facilities leaked out, the sceptics claimed to be vindicated.  There is a division in the ranks of both the scientists and the strategic community.  While all agree that India should retain its autonomy in making decisions, there is a difference concerning the effect of the deal on this autonomy.  In the media, some partisans have unfairly disparaged our scientists.

The nuclear deal could boost India’s output of electricity and ease the restrictions on cooperation in high-tech, if India is not asked to pay too high a price.  What we can accept is a reciprocity of moves forward by the two sides, the separation plan being left to India to decide and India being treated on par with the nuclear weapon powers: but the expectations raised on these points have been belied.

It was only after the Chairman of Atomic Energy spoke out about the Americans changing the goal posts that the danger of losing our autonomy sank in.  It now seems that the Fast Breeder Reactor (Kalpakkam) will be excluded from the civilian list (subject to IAEA inspections) for the next ten or fifteen years.  The haste to tie up the loose ends of the deal was probably because it was linked to the success of the Bush visit to India in March 2006.  What we require is a careful cost-benefit analysis and a cool assessment of American motives.

American critics have stressed that bending the non-proliferation rules to accommodate India would jeopardise the NPT regime.  The US administration urges that the deal would secure India in the very same framework.  The US is using civil nuclear cooperation as a sweetener to bind India in the non-proliferation system.  This is evident from the discussion over the separation plan and the two lists.  The US gave up its earlier aim to “cap, roll back and eventually eliminate” India’s nuclear weapon plans after 1998. Now the aim to is contain or limit our nuclear weapon capability.  The present deal, along with the projected treaty on cutting off fissile materials (FMCT), will do it.  We note that while the nuclear weapon powers have undertaken some obligations voluntarily, in India’s case, special obligations are prescribed, to be overseen by the US Congress too, and subject to future scrutiny and prescription.

It is generally conceded that India has been a responsible and scrupulous nuclear power, though it never joined the NPT.  The contrast in the conduct of some NPT signatory countries is marked, though India still does not accept the NPT.  Indian sincerity has been demonstrated in the export controls we have put in place and the WMD Act.  Yet the separation plan, which should have been left to India to determine, has been criticised. As our Prime Minister said, “An effective non-proliferation framework that addresses our security interests while simultaneously encouraging peaceful uses of nuclear energy is in our vital national interest.”  India can take part in programmes like the PSI, which are consistent with its policy of non-proliferation, but the virtual acceptance of the discriminatory and unequal NPT by the deal of July 18, 2005 is not in our interest.

Many Indians were appalled by the two Indian votes against Iran at the IAEA.  This was interpreted as a submission to obvious American pressure, though the PM claimed that it was the government’s own decision.  Iran’s nuclear programme may be suspect, but the solution should be sought through negotiations, not threats of UNSC sanctions and attack.

Issuing ultimatums is not justified.  Our PM has said that India does not want a new nuclear weapon power in the neighbourhood, but this applies to all regions, always. It was relevant too when India and Pakistan went nuclear in 1998.  Can we prevent a new nuclear power by riding on the backs of the Americans?  Before 1998 India would never have invoked NPT obligations to justify a position India took in a world forum.  India seems eager to accept the flawed NPT now.

A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist, has become notorious for his nuclear trading.  But the US is unwilling to press for his prosecution.  In contrast, India suffered under a technology denial regime.  It obliged us to stand on our feet and also to climb higher.  Now we may welcome the prospect of obtaining technology denied so far, but not at the cost of accepting conditionalities that will cramp our policy and autonomy.

While Indians should not be stuck in a cold war mind-set and should adapt our policies to the new realities, there is no need to swallow tempting offers without subjecting them to a rigorous calculus of pros and cons.  We should not set aside our past experience in dealing with the US, nor accuse the cautious of living in a time warp.

A book edited by Michael Ignatieff on American Exceptionalism highlights the contrast between US insistence on human rights and the support of US support for dictatorial regimes violating those rights. The US exclusion of the International Criminal Court, its pre-emptive military actions, its rejection of some international agreements like the Kyoto protocol are of a pattern of self-exemption, which paradoxically flourishes along with preaching human values and democracy to others.  It raises the basic question, to what extent does the US accept constraints on its sovereignty through international rules and conventions it has helped to shape?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flatters us by counting India as a potential great power.  She argues for a global order based on six powers: the US, Japan, Russia, the EU, China and India, all upholding freedom.  Does it fit in with India’s worldview?  Do we accept a balance structured on a consortium of six, excluding Africa and Latin America?

We may not go along with American priorities and methods. For us, the preservation of human cultural diversity is more important than it is for Americans. The term “strategic partnership” is deceptive, given the asymmetry of power between the US and India.  The two cannot build a partnership on strategic matters.  It is good if the US helps India build up its strength and standing, but the goals of the two are asymmetrical.

India has no long-term strategy as such, but only short-term goals.  We should not rush into the strategic framework envisaged by the present US administration.  Let us not be seduced by offers of future great power status.  The two countries should certainly go ahead with multi-faceted cooperation rather than strategic partnership in a reciprocal effort.

The Americans are known to be hard-headed in pursuing their interests.  We should emulate them.  They would respect it.  Then our relations will be stronger and endure longer.  We should consider the US in a proper perspective without superlatives.

India's options in the global senario

II.        Lt. Gen (Retd.) S.S. Mehta:

 He outlined the demographic advantage of India, with a population of 1.2    billion, being the "youngest country in the world", with a median age of    23 years.  This provides us with a youthful workforce which, if educated and skilled, could multiply India's GDP.  At present India's share of world trade is only 0.8%, while Finland, with 5.1 million in population, has an equal share.  We have 320 million children in the age group 6-16 years, but the jobs are not available for them.  Many children do not go to school.  About 180 m. children drop out before class 10.  The skilled force is only about 5%.  India will have to cope with water shortages.

 Our neighbour countries dislike us.  Bangladesh will not allow trade to transit through its territory to the north-east.  With Pakistan, our relations have always been tense.  Our borders with Pakistan and China are not settled, for we still have the LOC and the LOAC.

 We have recorded a growth of 8% p.a. in the service sector, but agriculture can show only 2%.  The Unorganised sector covers 340 m. people.

 In this pass, which country can help India?  China, Japan, the US or Russia?  Who can support India to deal with Pakistan or China in a crisis?   If the US gives us a prospect of constructive partnership, why not take it up?  China's experiment is based on a centrally controlled market economy.  It could either develop democratic institutions in fifty years or so, or continue with a prosperous central control.  If the experiment fails, will there be an "implosion" or purge of cadres? Will China then strike externally?

 With a vast number of Indians below the poverty line, India needs high technology to develop its potential.

 In advanced countries like Japan, there is a problem of an ageing population.  The projection for 2020 gives Japan a prospect of 80% of the people above 65 years.

 India can benefit in a partnership with the US, though experience shows that the US understands the meaning of allies and enemies. India, however, needs to be neither. It needs to be a friend. The challenge is to make the US understand that friends are not followers; they occasionally disagree, without it causing any embarrassment in

friendship. On the whole, we need a transition strategy till friendship is proven.

Indo-US core interests

His presentation was accompanied by a set of schematic diagrams with keywords in boxes arranged around a centre, for each of several aspects discussed, such as ‘Internal pressures on the main countries affected by Indo-US relations’: China, Pakistan, India’s core interests, US self-interests and global interests.  He contended that a small ally could sometimes be of help to a powerful ally and cited some examples from Indian history, such as the Mauryas.

Since the cold war, the American attitude of preaching to India (about Kashmir, Punjab, etc.) has changed.  The internet has helped.  But the 1998 n-test by India prompted the US to revert to the preaching mode.  Its effort to ‘cap’ India’s n-capability was a theme running through the Talbott-Jaswant Singh series of talks.

The US has accepted the ‘de-hyphenation’ of India and Pakistan in its South Asia policy.  India pointed out that missile technology from China had proliferated to Pakistan and elsewhere too.  Pakistan’s Kargil incursion in 1999 spurred the US under President Clinton to pressurise that country to withdraw and avert a dangerous war.  Clinton was for the Indo-Pakistan peace process to move forward and for friendly relations with India.

Under President Bush, the US was motivated to invade Iraq, claiming that Iraq was acquiring WMD’s to use against American targets and Israel.  Now he targets Iran for the same reason.  Why the inconsistency of soft-pedalling Pakistan’s proliferation?

The US interests can be analysed under the heads: economic dominance, military hegemony, energy access to continue high consumption of petro-fuels, investment protection, trade, IPR and business expansion.

The July 2005 nuclear deal between India and the US has opened new possibilities for India.  Air India’s big order for Boeing aircraft is a positive indication.  There is a sharp upturn in the number of start-ups in India, with fresh American high-tech coming in.  The draconian US visa system is being simplified (except for some scientists).  India’s entry into the restricted ITER project (plasma research) and the offer of cooperation for improved technology in the coal industry are other positives.  In defence, India may obtain access to US transport planes like the CI/30 J.  The ISRO-NASA agreement on India’s moon probe (with two US made instruments) is a significant step.  Prospects of cross patenting open the way for Indian firms to take out US patents for their products/processes.

The US has to an extent helped Indian security interests, for example, by its ban on certain jihadi groups in the subcontinent.  US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has strongly defended India in Senate hearings on the nuclear deal.  She contrasts India and Iran in regard to their record of non-proliferation.

India’s core interests in defence and security, economic development, education and research, S&T can be furthered by US cooperation.  With two of our neighbours being unfriendly, we will need the technology of missile shields, radar, smart bombs and border surveillance, apart from futuristic weapons against sophisticated terrorists.  Intelligence sharing is an area where the two countries can strengthen mutual confidence.  The US can be a leash on Pakistan’s possible adventurism against India.  The two navies can work together in securing trade routes in the Indian Ocean.  In peacekeeping, Indian experience will be of value to the US and the world.

Though both countries may differ in their perception of China, that country’s force levels and its presence in the Bay of Bengal and at Gwadar port in Pakistan enhance the danger zone for India.

In the quest for energy sources, the US is trying to undercut Russia by its pipeline diplomacy in Central Asia.  Russia and China have countered the US strategic moves by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

It would be ideal if the US were really sincere in bringing about greater security and stability in the world through its policy of promoting ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, instead of using these code words for the cynical change of regimes.  But doubts remain.

In trade matters and policy, India and the US are at variance on issues like the WTO.  On Intellectual Property Rights, it is good that India has won its case regarding the attempted appropriation of tamarind, turmeric and the like as patents by corporate interests.  Both countries can work to create a common data base for the joint evaluation of particular cases.  In investment protection, India’s legal frame is still somewhat weak in the eyes of potential Western investors.  In academic research, the scope for collaborative work is immense, especially in areas of interest to us like agriculture.

To conclude, the Indo-US dialogue can forge ahead constructively in the present era, if India approaches it with self-confidence.  The process itself is more important than the short-term results or lack of them.


To the question, ‘Who is the main adviser to the prime minister on the nuclear deal?’ the panel had no specific answer.  A question on energy security drew the comment that India has no firm energy policy, and no ministry devoted to energy issues as a whole, since they are dealt with in several ministries.  With our oil and gas imports coming by sea, the tanker ships are vulnerable to interdiction.  China, finding itself in a similar position, is going in for overland pipelines.  India’s electric power supply is fuelled by coal (60%), hydro (20%) and nuclear (3%).  We should develop the hydel potential of the northeast and the Himalayas.  In coal, investment for cleaner technology is needed.

India’s internal problem of Naxalite and tribal insurgencies are indeed pressing.  So is unemployment among millions of young people.  These are serious deficits.

A question came up on Pakistan suffering no penalties for its clandestine support of terrorism (to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to jihadi groups in Kashmir). The main reason lies in Pakistan’s strategic value to the US in its despairing efforts to establish stability in Afghanistan.  Pakistan is also seen as a check on Iran.

Dr. Chellaney explained the US relationship with Japan and Germany, two countries that seem to have flourished in the post-war era.  The US imposed a constitution on Japan which curbed any attempt at nationalistic expansionism by limiting its defence forces.  Japan is dependent on the US for its security and any investment in that direction is constrained by its need to obtain American clearance.

India, with one-sixth of the human race, cannot depend on the US for security.  Sri Sitaraman considered that an axis of the US, Japan and Australia is in the making to check possible Chinese expansionism or threats to other countries.  Lt. Gen. Mehta said that we should evolve a transitional strategy to test the waters with the US.  India cannot rely on either Russia or China.  India should not, of course, act as a lackey of any major power.

Dr. Chellaney said that in this century India could move out from non-alignment to multi-alignment based on specific interests.

The biggest advantage of the nuclear deal (Sri Sitaraman said) is access to uranium fuel, though the high cost is a deterrent to the import of US reactors.  The importance of the Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) and the conversion of thorium were stressed.  Lt. Gen. Mehta considered that access to US dual-use technology would benefit India in its transitional stage.

Dr. Chellaney commented on the availability of uranium in India.  The crunch in supply was first signalled by the government only in 2005, perhaps to build up public support for the intended nuclear deal with the US.  In his belief, there is no urgency and no apprehension of our uranium reserves running out soon.  The FBR plan is crucial to India’s nuclear policy and cannot be compromised.  He concluded with a warning that India should not give room for the perception by others that it has moved much closer to the US and Israel in its foreign policy.  There is no need for it.

The chairman, Shri Venkateswaran, summed up the seminar with the observation that India should safeguard its sovereignty in negotiations like the nuclear deal and that there is no call for India to take lessons in democracy from others.  If we have the will and the vision, we can use our large numbers and resources to advantage.  He recalled Swami Vivekananda’s quip that we should spend less time just thinking and more on action.


1) Overall view:  The seminar brought out the many facets of contemporary Indo-US relations in their constructive potential as well as inherent divergence.  The general view was that India should confidently welcome the improved climate of bilateralism in a transition period when our security and economic needs can be partly met by a friendly major power like the US.  At the same time, the warning was sounded that the asymmetry between the two countries should not be allowed to derail our basic national interests and autonomy in foreign and economic policies as framed by India’s democratically constituted government.

2) Limits:  Though there is a consensus in Indian public opinion that India should cultivate good relations with the US as well as other major powers, informed observers are sharply divided on the extent to which India should modify its basic foreign policy norms (such as safeguarding our sovereignty in key issues) to accommodate the interests of major powers.  India would be misguided to give up or weaken its support for a stable, multi-polar global order.  Nor should India acquiesce in the permanent ascendancy of the US as the only superpower.  It follows that the post-cold war world, while it offers opportunities for India to alter its worldview in the transformed international situation since 1990 and the worldwide shock of 9/11, still does not oblige us to become an ally and global partner of the US to the extent of accepting American perceptions of countries and regimes important in our scheme of things.  In this regard, Iran is a test case in Asia.  (It is ominous that the draft US bill on nuclear cooperation with India, which is to be sent to the US Congress for approval, has a section on foreign policy coordination where the US is seeking to steer India on its attitude to Iran’s nuclear programme).

3) The nuclear deal:  Among the promising lines on which Indo-US cooperation can proceed, now that Americans no longer view India through the cold war prism, it is the nuclear deal chalked out by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005 that has drawn maximum attention and commentary.  It is questionable whether the projected civilian nuclear cooperation should be the litmus test of the newly warming relationship between the two countries.  It has inevitably become the centrepiece, because it breaks new ground and because, in the context of world energy shortage, it can make a useful though limited difference to India’s development plans.  But an exaggerated concern over the fate of this deal and fear of diplomatic disaster for India if it fails (by the US Congress putting spokes in it rather than from Indian second thoughts), are not justified.  It will be a setback to bilateral relations, no doubt, but both countries can resume cooperation in other areas to their mutual benefit, although in a cooler atmosphere of mutual disenchantment.

On June 27, 2006 the International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives voted 37-5 in favour of considering the enabling draft Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006.  Two days later the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the same proposal with a vote of 16-2.  It will, if passed by the US Congress after discussion in the Senate and voting in both houses, permit the US to make an exception in favour of India to the highly restrictive Atomic Energy Act of 1954.  It will be contingent on India observing specific conditions in conformity with the non-proliferation regime which the US and the nuclear powers, with the backing of American allies like Japan and Australia, have established.  One important condition is that India should renounce nuclear testing, not just by a provisional moratorium, but forever.  Another is that India will forswear any augmentation of its store of fissile material (for weapons) and work with the US on the FMCT.  The first major hurdle has been cleared, but there are more ahead.  The deal has to pass through the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), a cartel wherein Australia, an exporter of uranium, is ready to sell to China but not to India because it is a non-signatory of the NPT.  The deal has also to run the gauntlet of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Missile Technology Control regime, which could entail unpalatable legislative enactments and executive obligations by India. Further, the deal hinges on an agreement about inspections between India and the IAEA, under negotiation.  While the US legislature retains its privilege of overseeing India’s nuclear record in a kind of annual security audit, there is no parallel right for the Indian parliament to examine the US record.

The nuclear deal was sprung on us last year without sufficient preparation of Indian public opinion.  It is a complex agreement with several technical, scientific, economic, political and strategic implications about which there was little background data available to Indian observers.  The global aspects of the deal were also obscured by the initial euphoric proclamations of a new era of Indo-American amity.  Few people, Indian or American, are equipped to understand the science and technology of nuclear power.  For instance, the details of the Indian plan for the separation of civilian and defence-related nuclear facilities, a crucial piece in the architecture of the agreement, came out in sparse instalments only later, when the Americans were debating its alleged deficiencies.  The significance of retaining our autonomy in operating the FBR’s in Kalpakkam was not explained.  India’s thorium reserves are to be used as fuel eventually, but this technology will take some years to come into effective operation in our country.  This information is not in the public domain.  Indian nuclear scientists were obliged by our political leadership to restrain airing their doubts on the deal, so that the public was denied adequate exposure to the pros and cons as they saw it, whether as individuals or as a working group.  The impression remains that the Indian Atomic Energy Commission had only a secondary (if not seconding) role in the negotiations.

There was more focussed discussion about the technical and political aspects of the deal in the US think tanks like the Council for Foreign Relations and in American media than on our side. For instance, some American experts aver that the Indian government is keen on the deal because the Indian nuclear establishment has a pressing need for natural uranium, which is said to be difficult for us to mine and refine for use in our Heavy Water nuclear power reactors and even more so, in a highly enriched form, for the nuclear warheads.  This aspect was not openly explained in India, presumably because of its sensitive nature.  But when the American side can discuss it in detail, it behoves our side to brief parliament, the media and the public authoritatively.

Some Indian critics took an adverse view of the deal consistent with their unchanging scepticism about American strategy and motivation.  The prize held up to India was indeed tempting, namely, that the deal would enable it to break free from decades of nuclear isolation, years during which the US and its close allies had denied our nuclear industry both technology and fuel.  But the counter-view that during this isolation India was able to develop a credible and respectable nuclear capability, both civil and military, is a fact not to be overlooked.  If the cost of compliance with the prescriptive regime is deemed too high, if the opening of our facilities to possibly intrusive inspections by a biased team under the IAEA could cramp our minimum programme of storing fissile material and operating our nuclear facilities according to our own lights, and if the separation of nuclear facilities is expected to entail very costly duplication, India must firmly ask for equal treatment with other nuclear powers which are not subjected to such stringent restrictions, even at the risk of the deal falling through.

The NPT factor:  The nuclear deal hinges on the fundamental difference between India and the US in regard to the NPT.  Each country has a radically different motive for going ahead with the deal, though the common factor is that it raises domestic opposition in both.  The Indian expectation is a wish to be recognised as a nuclear power, apart from but on par with, the five avowed nuclear weapon powers.  The US motive is to corral and shackle India’s nuclear potential into a confined space of dependency where American firms will have a guaranteed advantage.

We have always opposed the NPT for its essentially discriminatory foundation and its unequal obligations as between the nuclear weapon powers and the non-nuclear weapon powers.  Yet Americans almost unanimously swear by the NPT and believe in its efficacy as an international regime which has prevented the spread of nuclear weapon capability to new powers: (other than India, Pakistan and Israel, the chief non-signatories, and other than what the US derogatorily calls ‘rogue states’, the aspirant nuclear powers, Iran and North Korea, which gained technology from the machinations of the Pakistani, A. Q. Khan).  They do not see that the US has exempted itself from all obligations under the treaty.  They see the NPT solely as an instrument which the world has sanctioned to be used by the US and its allies to prevent proliferation outside the circle that includes the anointed five powers, plus the sneak entrants, India and Pakistan, plus Israel, the US surrogate in West Asia.  India under the UPA coalition has become a late convert to the discrimination implicit in the NPT, without quite signing up.  The nuclear deal will not allow India into the superior class of the nuclear haves, despite its hard-won acquisition of nuclear weapon capability.  Our government has not protested the freezing and perpetuation of this nuclear distinction, which is bound to work against India’s long-term interests.  India will be obliged to curb if not ‘cap’ its fissile stock and forswear n-tests in perpetuity, while the US permits itself the freedom to test more pointedly powerful nuclear weapons for tactical warfare and ‘bunker bursting’: mini-nukes with maxi-blast, we may call them.

The chief concern of American sceptics and critics is that India should not be ‘rewarded’ by the offer of technology, fuel and reactors when the NPT is under threat from ‘rogue states’ and from the possible diversion of weapons to terrorists.  They believe that it will encourage other aspirants to defy or wreck the NPT.  This disregards or minimises India’s record as a responsible and scrupulous non-proliferator, but the US acts in the righteous conviction that it is divinely empowered to impose global rules when its security may be threatened by others possessing WMD’s.

The global context:  The Indo-US relationship has to be set in the global context.  India has to manage a longish period of transition from the status of an emerging power to the rank of a developed country with high Human Development ratings like Japan.  We badly need technology and investment.  The US can surely be an excellent partner.  Even China, which is seen as a potential rival to the US, has gained vastly from American and Western partnership in the last three decades.  But there are limits that India cannot forget.  For one thing, Pakistan’s endemic antagonism to our nation and its interference in Kashmir through sponsored extremists who distort Islam cannot be resolved with American help or brokerage.  The US considers it to be our problem. The American anti-terrorist agenda does not square with India’s.  India’s need to cultivate good relations with Russia, China, the EU the Arab and African countries and Latin America should not be subsumed under the imperatives of a putative strategic partnership with the US.  Some of the differences between India and the US (apart from foreign policy) will not go away: one is on trade and subsidies, another is on investment incentives for US corporations to compete in the Indian market, yet another is the persistent American denial of high-tech in key sectors.  Indians have a high regard for Americans and their achievements, but not for the US as an overweening global power with a global reach.  This distinction is likely to colour the partnership between the two countries, even in the era of warmer relations.

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