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Republican Narender Reddy Hosts Thought Provoking Discussion
on US-India Civil Nuclear Treaty
(L to R: Narender Reddy, Dr. Jag Sheth and Dr. Seema
BY KAVITA CHHIBBER
In between relishing Indian cuisine, lifting the ban on Indian mangoes, and putting up with a sulky Pakistani head Parvez Musharraf, President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, announced that the two nations had reached a historic agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, and that it was their belief the initiative would promote global and regional democracy, stability and prosperity.
The deal is now waiting for approval in the Congress through proposed legislation in House (HR 4974) and Senate (S 2429).
To evaluate and share thoughts on this initiative and how it impacts the Economic and Strategic relationship between the two nations Narender Reddy, Georgia’s most visible Indian American Republican, put together a panel of three illustrious speakers, Dr. Jagdish N. Sheth, (Founder, India China and America Institute and Professor of Marketing, Emory University), Dr. Seema Gahlaut, (Director Center for International Trade & Security University of Georgia, Athens, GA) and Suresh Sharma (Executive Director of ICA Institute and former executive at GE) at a short notice, at the Palace restaurant on 6th April.
Reddy said every time he met Bush he would ask when was he going to visit India and finally the last time they met the President said he would definitely make it there by early 2006, and he did.
“In the past five years the Indo-US relations have been on the right track and while it may take a lot of effort and resources to get the deal approved, I feel hopeful that it will come through from what I’m hearing and seeing,” said Reddy.
Reddy said he saw a positive response from Nick Burns who is the prime architect of the deal, and Condoleezza Rice, is very committed as was clear from the way she handled questions thrown at her before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Reddy added that even anti-Indian congressman Dan Burton, seemed to look at the deal with a less jaundiced eye.
There was an intense discussion about the several pre-requisites that form the part of the US-India civil nuclear initiative-from having a majority of its existing power reactors and those under construction(14 out of 22) under IAEA safeguards, identifying and declaring nine other research facilities as civilian, negotiating and signing an additional protocol with the IAEA, refraining from transfers of enrichment and re-processing technologies to states that do not already possess them and support limiting their spread, continuing India’s unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, adhering to the MTCR and NSG guidelines, to name a few.
The expectations are that this initiative will open many more business opportunities for American firms as they work to help meet India’s demands for civilian nuclear technology for fuel and India’s exploding energy needs. India is also brought into the global nuclear non-proliferation mainstream, since USA endorses India’s impeccable nuclear non-proliferation record.
The discussion covered a wide gamut- from fears of the nuclear plants not being run in a safe way and the possibility of another Chernobyl in India, to the partnership being a marriage of necessity as the world becomes more and more driven by economic pragmatism than ideology and once you become military partners as India and USA have chosen to become the nuclear partnership becomes a by product and invariably a long drawn affair.
Seema Gahluat said the key reasons for the partnership are driven by energy security, economic cooperation, military cooperation, and non proliferation gains.
Suresh Sharma felt the next infosys in the making is in the defense sector and globalization is about tapping into global talent. There was a discussion about the relationship between Iran and India and how it would play with USA, the fact that the nuclear energy mantra may actually be a smoke screen to develop nuclear weapons, and environmental issues that may become a huge concern because of the large quantity of hazardous materials being used.
One solution, said Dr. Sheth, would be for India to focus on agricultural technology as it was very likely that in a little over a decade agriculture based fuels would become the dominant phenomena. Suresh Sharma also said that unlike his own childhood, today’s younger generations must be raised as an educated generation from politics to public life for a better world. The world has changed and geographical borders may continue to blur-the focus will then be on a global citizenship,
Most panelists felt, that in spite of strong lobbying against the initiative, the deal would go through with some concessions. “In the new reality, what may be good for India is a necessity for the USA,’ SAID Dr.