US–India Nuclear Agreement: Failure of Pakistan Strategy
By Bushra Ahmad
University of California

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a US-India civil nuclear agreement on July 26, 2006. H.R. 5682, cited as the ‘United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006,’ allows India to purchase fuel and nuclear reactors from the US in order to create cleaner energy sources. The Bush Administration sees this agreement as a step towards full civil nuclear cooperation and is asking Congress for an India-specific amendment to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. This would enable India to be treated as a country in good standing with the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.
The US-India Nuclear Agreement would enable India to achieve a new host of capabilities. Since India has reprocessing fuel capabilities, it would enable them to produce more fissile material, including plutonium. This is significant since less plutonium is needed to increase the production of light weight nuclear weapons.
While increasing India’s nuclear capabilities, this deal also takes away from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since India is not a signatory to it. India does not want the rest of the world to be able to view its actions while it tests nuclear devices. This allows India to perform more tests, the results of which affect the entire world. All these tests have dangerous consequences as they pose serious hazards to human beings. The material from them enters our water supply, the food chain, and the air. Highly radioactive elements will be present everywhere and as they enter into our system; they may cause cancers and tumors, for which there is no known cure.
This agreement will also have dire consequences for the region of South Asia. Although Pakistan already has nuclear capabilities, there is never a positive outcome when a country develops nuclear capabilities since the result is massive destruction in half a second. If India pulls its trigger, it will result in the destruction of both sides.
While India is not a signatory to the NPT, the Bush Administration views this as a progressive step towards incorporating India into the nonproliferation regime. Bush stated, “This historic action by the House of Representatives is another important step toward building a new strategic partnership between the United States and India.”
While India benefits from this agreement by strengthening its ties with the United States and upsetting the balance of power in South Asia, some see this as hindering the Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as US and international attempts. It would upset the balance of power in an already unstable region and would not put any pressure on India to sign the NPT. It would also enable India’s civilian sector capabilities to be transferred to the military sector. Thus enabling civilian technology to be shared with the military and enhance its abilities.
In addition to refusing to sign the NPT, India has detonated nuclear bombs and refuses to enforce International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety measures in its nuclear facilities. Thus, according to US laws and global nuclear export regulations, India is not entitled to full civil nuclear cooperation.
As India becomes a major power on the world stage through its nuclear and military capabilities, the United States will be putting forth the bill. Supporting India enables the United States to reduce its own military, political, and economic costs when it comes to limiting the growth of its possible rival, China.
In addition to the US limiting its rival’s growth, India seeks to limit Pakistan’s growth in the region. Although Pakistan had demanded the same agreement, the United States refused. China had insisted that any exemptions for nuclear cooperation should not only be offered to India but should also be offered to other countries, including its ally Pakistan. With different countries having different allies, this agreement will drastically disturb India and Pakistan’s balance of power in the region.
Before discussing the House vote on the nuclear agreement, one must comparatively analyze the size and role of the US Congressional Indian Caucus and the US Congressional Pakistan Caucus. The Indian Caucus consists of 173 House members, 105 Democrats and 68 Republicans. The Pakistan Caucus is much smaller with 74 House members, consisting of 38 Democrats and 36 Republicans. There are 36 members, 21 Democrats and 16 Republicans who belong to both the caucuses. The purpose of a caucus is to represent issues that are important to representative’s members. A caucus requires the backing of a community as many Congressional staffers have pointed out that the community needs to be proactive and encourage their representatives to address specific issues.

Caucus Membership


Indian Caucus Pakistan Caucus


On July 26th, 2006, House members voted on the nuclear agreement. A majority vote of 359 favored the agreement while 68 opposed and 6 did not vote. Of the 36 House members that belong to both, the Indian Caucus as well as the Pakistan Caucus, 32 members voted in favor of the agreement while 4 members opposed it.

House Vote

Not Voting

The voting results only validate the claims of what many activists in the Pakistani community have been saying all along. They have raised concern that an overlap of members could result in a conflict of interests and that caucus members with dual membership tend to vote with India. With the nuclear agreement vote, the House members seemed to be playing favorites as they overwhelmingly sided with India’s interests. Only one out of every nine members, roughly 11 percent, of those belonging to both caucases opposed the agreement.
The results also illustrate the failure of the Pakistani Caucus. A report by the Weekly Report from Washington, DC showed just how much of a failure Pakistani lobbying was at the nation’s capital. The report states, "The Pakistan Embassy claims to have secured the support of 75 Congressmen, but whenever any meeting is called, only a handful of members of Congress are present - mostly, Black Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee would be present. Then, many of the Congressmen listed in the Pakistani Caucus are also part of the Indian Caucus. This is scandalous. But who would bother about it?” The report goes on to state, "Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat hardly comes to the embassy. Even when the General comes, he stays there only for a while.”
When a Congressman is a member of both Caucuses it poses a challenge for them to equally represent both caucuses’ interests. When one looks at financial contributions, Indians contribute half a million more US dollars to their lobbyists than Pakistanis. Since lobbying is a crucial factor in the foreign policy process in the United States, it is not difficult to understand the results. Thus, the failure of Pakistani lobbying has worked to India’s nuclear advantage.
These results are not surprising when one considers that Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf’s strategy has been a failure. Although President Bush and President Musharraf had a strategic partnership between their countries that took into account their shared interests of promoting peace and security in South Asia, that may no longer be the case. Musharraf is now at a crucial juncture as he must reexamine his strategy with the United States
In addition, India may soon have a top official at the United Nations. Shashi Tharoor is India’s candidate and a serious contender for the UN secretary general position. If he wins this position, it would increase India’s influence and power in the world.
In light of recent events with Israel’s attack on Lebanon, one must also recognize India’s other ally, Israel, and its role with India. In 2000, Israel was India’s second largest equipment supplier as their military transactions were greater than 3 billion dollars. In addition, Israel is China’s second major arms supplier. With Israel being number four among the world’s arms suppliers, one can expect its relationship with India to only become closer after this nuclear agreement.
The next step for the nuclear agreement will be the US Senate which is supposed to vote on the agreement later in 2006. If the Senate passes the bill, it then goes to the president who signs the bill in order to enforce the agreement. If the Senate passes the bill, Musharraf must revaluate his strategy with the US as he considers his country’s security and stability on the world stage.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.