Global Risk

Congressman Markey on the US-India Nuclear Deal

10.26.07 | 2 min read | Text by Ivan Oelrich

Last week, Congressman Ed Markey (D-Mass) visited FAS to talk about the India-US deal. Markey, who strongly supports closer ties with India, opposes the nuclear deal because it undermines the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). A transcript and video of his comments are on the FAS website.

What I found most interesting about his talk was a graphic showing the growth in U.S.-Indian trade over the past few decades. (Our chart is not a reproduction of the chart used my Mr. Markey but created from the same data.) It goes up…and up and up. It has gone up even during politically difficult times, for example, after the 1974 Indian nuclear test. The Congressman’s point is that, when people argue for the nuclear deal because it will allow a blossoming of trade between the two countries, they miss the point entirely. Trade with India has been growing for years, it continues to grow now, and it will grow in the future whether we have a nuclear deal or not. So the trade benefit is simply not there. But the harm done to the NPT definitely remains.

At the time I wrote my previous entry on India, the future of the deal looked uncertain because of political difficulties on the New Delhi side. Turns out the threats of the leftist parties were real and genuinely endangered the Congress Party’s ruling coalition. The deal is not officially dead at this point but definitely on hold. It may be mortally wounded.

At this point, this might be the best possible outcome. As Congressman Markey points out, many in Congress, even Republicans, were saying that the deal that the administration agreed to was not in compliance with the Hyde Act, passed by the Republican 109th Congress, so legal challenges seemed inevitable, which could have created hard feeling all around. It is probably best, whether viewed from the American or the Indian side, that the political problems come from the Indian side. Now no feelings will be hurt. The US made a generous offer so the Indians should be satisfied. The deal was rejected but only because of opposition from a minority party making up a small but vital part of the ruling coalition, so the Americans won’t feel snubbed.

Perhaps now we can get back to where we should be: strengthening the NPT, agreeing to disagree about Indian nuclear weapons, and addressing the problem of nuclear inequality that so irritates the Indians by working first with the Russians, and eventually other nuclear powers, to eliminate nuclear weapons. There will be no inequality between nuclear haves and have-nots when everyone is a have-not.

Len Weiss just published a great review of the whole history of the Indian nuclear deal. I recommend it.