What are the details of the United States' nuclear power deal with India?
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During his recent visit to India, President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India announced a historic agreement. The United States has finally agreed to allow the importation of Indian mangoes.
Known throughout the world as the "king of fruit," mangoes are rich in antioxidants and potassium, and they are an excellent source of dietary fiber.
"The U.S. is looking forward to eating Indian mangoes," Bush said at the news conference announcing the accord. If you think I'm kidding, look it up.
Understandably overshadowed by the mango pact, but just as important, the United States and India also reached an agreement on sharing nuclear technology. The world's largest democracy and the world's fattest democracy are now nuclear BFF.
The deal has been in the works since July 2005. It's a major shift in U.S. policy. Prior to it, official U.S. policy was that India was a nuclear rogue state unworthy of America's atomic affection.
India never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. And in May 1974, it exploded its first nuclear weapon. The operation was code-named Buddha Smiles. It was the most ironically named event in the history of irony — until 1998, when India exploded a much larger nuclear device, code-named Buddha Laughs. If you think I'm kidding, look it up.
Under the new agreement with India, the United States will end its ban on the sale of nuclear fuel and nuclear power plant parts such as reactors, turbines, ominous red light bulbs and those scary buzzers that go off when something bad happens.
India wants our nuclear power-making technology because it's more efficient than theirs. They need it badly. With a fast-growing economy and a population that will soon overtake China's as the world's largest, India is even hungrier for new sources of energy than America is for delicious mangoes.
The deal is also of great psychological importance to many Indians. Read a couple of Indian newspapers online and you'll quickly see that it boosts Indian national pride to be the trusted nuclear partner of the world's leading superpower.
What is the United States getting out of all of this? In no particular order:
1) We're not giving India these nuclear knickknacks for free. India's buying them. Cash money, baby!
2) India has plans to drop mad rupees on top-shelf American weaponry, aircraft, ships, etc. Did you know India is the biggest importer of conventional weapons in the developing world and that America is the world's biggest arms exporter? It's a match made in heaven. Or moksha, if you prefer.
3) From now on, when call volume is heavy, Americans won't have to stay on hold for as long as they used to. Our calls are now that much more important to operators in India's countless call centers.
4) An American alliance with India is a huge step in our long-term strategic effort to counter the growing military strength of China. We totally just bitch-slapped Beijing.
5) Did I mention the mangoes?
Despite all the good things we will get out of the deal, not everyone is happy. Critics of the deal point out the Bush administration has unilaterally declared that India doesn't have to follow the same internationally agreed-upon nuclear rules that every other nation does.
Expect Iran to repeatedly point out this double standard as we continue to push the world to pressure Iran into giving up its nuclear program — a program that's about 40 years behind India's.
Even people who welcome a nuclear deal in theory are upset at one of the deal's key details. Although India has promised not to develop any more nukes than it deems necessary to deter a foreign attack, this deal will leave one-third of India's reactors completely free of international inspection. India could use U.S.-bought nuclear fuel for electricity and just divert its own, domestically made nuclear fuel into a secret nuclear buildup — and we might never know.
If you care one way or another, you can holler at your senator. The deal won't become official unless the Senate approves it. Darn that pesky Constitution!