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DISSENTING OPINION: Friends with Benefits

The U.S.-India nuclear deal is essential

By Nikhil G. Mathews

The blossoming and energy-thirsty economies of India and China promise to lift the demand for oil to unprecedented heights. In this context, President Bush’s proposal to provide India with fuel for its civilian nuclear power plants is prudent and necessary. The president articulated the reasoning behind the plan while visiting New Delhi last week: “Increasing demand for oil from America, from India and China, relative to a supply that’s not keeping up with demand, causes our fuel prices to go up,” he said. “And so, to the extent that we can reduce demand for fossil fuels, it will help the American consumer.”

The fact that India objected to its exclusion from the “nuclear club,” the elite group of states permitted to own nuclear weapons, under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is proffered as a reason to refuse the newly proposed pact. That treaty’s outmoded and arbitrary distinction between nuclear “haves” and “have-nots” cannot, however, justify objections to Bush’s proposal to diversify India’s energy sources. A stable democracy explicitly dedicated to a policy of minimum nuclear deterrence, India has proven itself responsible in its wielding of nuclear capabilities.

In no way does the proposed deal cheat those signatories to the NPT who chose to relinquish their claims to nuclear weapons in return for civilian nuclear technology. Those countries agreed to a pact and have reaped the benefits of their decisions for the last several decades. Given that the last thirty-six years have witnessed the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Soviet Union, and a marked growth spurt in eastern economies, it is entirely reasonable for the U.S. and other powers to now reconsider nuclear policies laid out in the late 60s.

Comparisons between India and Pakistan are out of line. Those who claim that U.S. treatment of India and its rival Pakistan must be equivalent forget the not so slight distinction between liberal democracy and military dictatorship. Only seven years ago the junta led by Pervez Musharraf seized power in Pakistan in a coup d’état. Consider also that leading Pakistani engineer A.Q. Khan confessed to running a nuclear weapons racket with connections to potential “rogue states” Iran and North Korea. To top it all, Osama bin Laden and senior leaders of al-Qaeda are widely believed to reside in northwestern Pakistan. An Islamic theocracy like Pakistan that is continually plagued by radical elements has much to accomplish before it can claim the status of an international leader, which India has earned.

A strategic alliance between established western powers and India is beneficial for all parties involved. In addition to tempering surges in oil prices, the establishment of a rapport with New Delhi is vital to U.S. and European interests, as India stands as a hub of democracy in a region whose political landscape is tainted by Chinese communism and Islamic authoritarianism. For these reasons, leaders with diverse international outlooks, from Jacques Chirac of France to Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed El Baradei of International Atomic Energy Agency, are lining up in support of Bush’s proposal, acknowledging that the non-proliferation regime’s embrace of India is critical to the future of the international economy and global stability.

Nikhil G. Mathews '08, an editorial editor, is a psychology concentrator in Mather House.

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