Friday, February 24, 2006

Passage to India

On Tuesday President Bush sets out of what is likely to be his most significant foreign trip of this year.He's heading to India - and then to Pakistan.

In every single sense, India today is an emerging power.

It's very clearly a rapidly emerging economy with its impressive high-tech sector primarily in software. It's the rapidly growing service provider superpower of the third wave of globalisation.

But it is also a rapidly growing political power.

New Delhi today has good relations with almost everyone. To have a good relationship with both Iran and Israel at the same time is remarkable by any standards. And the relationship with China is developing rapidly. Tensions with Pakistan has diminished.

The United States is now investing heavily in a deeper strategic relationship with India.

To some extent it's a question of balancing China, but it's also a recognition that if America should truly be part of shaping the future it must be done also in dialogue with the emerging Asian powers of India and China.

More concrete, the visit will be about nuclear power. And it will not necessarily be easy.

India is investing heavily in both its civilian and military nuclear programs with evident links between the two. It has chosen a technological road that is unique, aiming at eventually being able to use its vast resources of thorium to produce electric power.

Today it has 15 nuclear reactors operating and a further 7 under construction.

But for the United States to enter into closer cooperation that includes the transfer of nuclear technologies, there has to be a clear separation between the military and the civilian programs.

That might not be that easy. Washington wants as large parts as possible classified as civilian and subject also to international monitoring. New Delhi wants limit to this, and there is significant pressure from within the community that in clandestine developed its nuclear weapons to keep the Americans and other foreigners at distance.

It will be a delicate balancing act for President Bush. There is opposition in Congress, and there is the issue of Iran hovering in the background all the time.

But the visit nevertheless is a contribution to the opening up of a new chapter in the development of new strategic relationships.

Europe should take note. Posted by Picasa