Courtesy Reuters

How Washington Learned to Stop Worrying and Love India's Bomb

The debate is all over, at least on the U.S. side. On December 18, President George W. Bush signed into law the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act giving legal effect to his July 2005 promise to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to confer de facto recognition to India as a nuclear weapons state. That status has enormous symbolic importance to India and the world. It also has the practical consequence of allowing India to import nuclear technology for peaceful power production without having first to renounce its developing nuclear arsenal (which it has consistently vowed never to do). The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, including favorable votes from Democratic heavyweights such as Senator Joseph Biden (from Delaware), Representative Tom Lantos (from California), Senator John Kerry (from Massachusetts), Senator Hillary Clinton (from New York), and Senator Christopher Dodd (from Connecticut). Bush's initial deal-making was impulsive and not fully thought through. But Congressional leaders of both parties seemingly put product over process, adding only a few conditions to the deal in the final bill--many of them non-binding and none of them deal-breakers for the Indians. The lobbying also marked one of the first appearances of the Indian-American community in a major foreign affairs debate; as President Bush acknowledged at the December 18 signing, addressing Indian Americans specifically, "I want you to know that your voice was very effective."

To be sure, there are a few more technical steps to be taken. The U.S. and Indian governments must agree on certain ground rules (in a so-called 1-2-3 Agreement) before any nuclear technology can be transferred to India. The International Atomic Energy Agency and India must then agree on how the IAEA will inspect India's non-weapons nuclear facilities. And then, the United States must secure the unanimous endorsement by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, 45 nations bound to enforce together the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's rules on nuclear commerce, of the United States' policy change toward India. International agreement seems certain, especially

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