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Natural Partners

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When signing into law, on Tuesday, a bill that would allow "civilian nuclear cooperation" with India, President Bush said: "The United States and India are natural partners. The rivalries that once kept our nations apart are no more--and today, America and India are united by deeply held values;" ( WaPo) that would be the deeply held belief in the value of the almighty dollar which has sunk lower than the Titanic in recent years. What's more, for an administration that has made the threat of anything nuclear the centerpiece of its campaign of preemption to enter into an agreement with among the world's largest nations, India, in which that nation is, in effect, given permission to enrich uranium to their heart's content seems to defy logic, except when that logic embraces the corporate bottom line.

So, while the mainstream media, and the blogosphere, have been preoccupied with troop size, the president has been quietly working to wipe out more than 30 years' worth of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Who will be able to keep a straight face, from now on, when the administration redeploys troops from beleagured Baghdad into Tehran on the grounds that Iran is enriching its uranium, into North Korea, Pakistan, or anywhere else? How can this administration cooperate with Indian nuclear ambitions while, at the same time, threatening economic embargos and wholescale invasions of those other pariahs?

While India is among a handful of states that did not sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 2000; others are Pakistan and Cuba, clearly, Bush's objective here is partly to establish a stronger connection with India as a way to keep the economic behemoth of China at bay. But, of equal importance, is the transparent intention to establish a partnership, "natural" or otherwise, in Asia, should the nuclear arms race lead to its inevitable conclusion; another, and arguably the final, world war.

Ostensibly, the administration plans to use the remaining 23-odd months it has left to line up its ducks, and save face with regard to a bankrupt foreign policy legacy. After all, history may look more kindly upon a president who helped to establish closer ties with India. Just as we remember Richard Nixon for Watergate, we also remember him for his opening lines of communication with China. Just as there are many who would rather remember Ronald Reagan's famous line: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall" than Oliver North and the Iran-Contra debacle, or the invasion of Grenada. Is it so terrible, after all, for a president to want posterity to have one good thing to say about his foreign policy initiatives. Indeed, and he may well get his wish as future generations may come to know him, from now on, as Mr. George "just say no to nonproliferation'" Bush.

When at the business of keeping track, posterity will also recall the efforts of this administration to put commerce, and profit, above more than a quarter of a century's international covenenants to protect against global nuclear annihilation. In addition to turning back the clock on nonproliferation efforts, and risking another arms race, this new law flies in the face of the Atomic Energy Act which proscribes trade with countries who have not signed, and agreed to abide by, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Importantly, Congress was persuaded to go along for the ride, knowing full well that the Atomic Energy Act forbids trade with countries that did not agree to the terms of prior nonproliferation covenants.

While the U.S. and India shook hands on a new era of "civilian" nuclear cooperation, importantly, India has to come up against the International Atomic Energy Agency, and may have to face inspections. "India only agreed to put half of all its electricity-producing reactors under safeguard, and that's troubling" according to Daryl G. Kimball, of the Arms Control Association. (WaPo) Indeed, troubling it is, especially for those of us who are fond of the prospect of knowing there will be a human race in a hundred years. One can only hope that the IAEA will provide the needed oversight to ensure that India, too, must play by the rules.