Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nukes, India, and fruit

President Bush is about to return home from an eventful trip to India where he championed an agreement to lift the moratorium on nuclear shipments from the US to the world's second most populous country. In return, India will allow international inspectors into 14 of 22 nuclear facilities, none of which serve a military purpose. Congress will still have to approve the measure, which means that it is far from certain. Indeed, some at home are opposed to rewarding India for not being a member to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by giving it more nuclear capabilities while at the same time trying to restrict it from going to places like North Korea or Iran:

Opponents of the deal believe the Bush administration has effectively torn up the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by granting India a special exemption and rights to purchase US nuclear technologies.
Bush is being pragmatic. India has had nuclear weapons for over thirty years now and never signed the agreement because of the fact that China, Britain, Russia, the US, and France already had large arsenals prior to the treaty of 1970. It is implausible to think they are going to somehow be persuaded to give up their weapons today, especially with nuclear Pakistan next door. It is better to have some international presence in the country and open up markets for big US companies like GE than shun Singh for largely ideological reasons.

Nuclear power is the most cost effective form of renewable fuel currently in existence and it is clean. Currently, India is the world's sixth largest consumer of oil, and with an economic growth rate topping 7% that consumption is only going to increase. Backing the drive toward nuclear power (ten reactors are on the way) will weaken the influence of nearby neighbors on India, like Iran.

Nuclear weapon abstinence shouldn't be our goal. Pretending that a democratic, Hindu nation with a British colonial past that is opening up economically to the developed world is somehow comparable to North Korea or Saudi Arabia is silly moral posturing. The country has refused to give nuclear technology to Libya and Iran.

India is strategically located. Armed and on relatively good terms with the US, it can serve as a counterbalance to China and an insurance policy against Pakistan should Musharraf be overthrown.

I am not convinced that India will be able to parallel China's ascent onto the world stage. Despite high-tech pockets, India is destitutely poor (44% of India's population lives on less than $1 a day, compared to 19% in China). Over a third of its population is illiterate (40% in India compared to only 9% in China), and India's average IQ is estimated to be around 81 compared to China's score of 100, while India's PPP is $3,400 to China's $6,200. Of the Indian families I know (a grande sample of three!), two are Brahmin and one is Kshatriya (all three fathers are engineers). These upper castes are probably quite distinct (and enjoy high average IQs) from the meaner ones due to so little mixing of castes in marriage and offspring. India also has a wide spectrum of ethnic groups who are linguistically and culturally disparate. China, by contrast, is 92% Han.

But India is progressively instituting liberal economic reforms, increasing spending on education, and making other infrastructure investments. If Japan similarly serves as a counterweight to China, any threat of Chinese expansionism might be contained. We should strive for this sort of balance rather than any military or economic action directed specifically against China. Allowing Taiwan and Japan to acquire nuclear weapons could insure stability in East Asia and the South Pacific.

Finally, having a friend so close to Pakistan can only be beneficial. Although there is a ruckus over Iran's nuclear activities, Pakistan already has nuclear weapons (and has shared nuclear technology all over the place). Musharraf is about the best friend we can expect from that area of the world, but his regime is hated by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups (and unpopular in the Muslim world in general). He's been targeted by assassins and his regime could be toppled. In that unhappy scenario, a Taliban-like government with nuclear capabilities would come into power in Pakistan.

Oh, and we get mango.



Anonymous said...

I also enjoy mango. Find more out about great mango recipes and food ideas!

crush41 said...

I can't say I've ever had one. Strawberries and bananas are enough for me. But if India wants our wheat for some mangoes, more power! Are there any domestic mango growers?