United States Department of the Fourth Estate
Washington, D.C. 20590
December 6, 2005
TO: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and
National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
FROM: Lawrence Korb and Peter Ogden
SUBJECT: Winning Congressional Support for the “Global Partnership” with India
Since 9/11, Congress has exerted little influence on major Bush Administration foreign policy initiatives and defense spending requests. But those days seem to be over, and you need to develop strategies for confronting this unwelcome development, not least with regard to the new “global partnership” with India.
Announced on July 18, 2005 in a joint statement by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the partnership calls for enhanced bilateral cooperation on issues ranging from security to energy to development. Fortunately, the prospect of improving U.S. ties with India has been well received. However, there is widespread concern about one provision: the lifting of restrictions on the export of civilian nuclear technology to India, which would all but end India’s “nuclear pariah” status despite its ongoing refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). There are three steps the Administration should take to secure congressional support for this controversial move.
First, persuade an irritated Congress that you are now prepared to work constructively and in good faith with it. No administration appreciates congressional meddling in foreign policy, particularly when both houses are controlled by the President’s party. Ignoring Congress carries great risks, however. Even the most meticulously constructed agreement can be unceremoniously upended at the last moment by a single, well-aimed congressional amendment.
The Nixon and Ford Administrations, for instance, never learned this lesson. Unwilling and unable to work constructively with a resurgent Congress, their foreign policy initiatives were fundamentally altered by a variety of amendments and resolutions such as the famous Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a statutory measure targeted against the Soviet Union that denied Most Favored Nation trading status to countries that restricted emigration.
Unfortunately, this Administration’s initial approach to the “global partnership” with India alienated Congress by not providing adequate advance briefing. Congress expects to be informed about major foreign policy initiatives before they are publicly announced, not after. This mistake caused an immediate backlash. Members of the House Energy Conference Committee moved quickly to approve a measure banning the sale of nuclear technology to India, and Rep. James Leach (R-IA) of the House International Relations Committee recently chastised two senior State Department officials for announcing such an agreement without “any serious prior consultation with the Congress.”
It is not too late to make amends, but you must immediately demonstrate your willingness to be forthcoming, cooperative and accommodating as the relationship with India develops.
Second, submit draft legislation that frames the lifting of export restrictions in generic terms (i.e., as a set of criteria that could be met by any country) rather than as an exception made only for India. Such legislation is your best hope for addressing congressional concerns over the damage this agreement with India might inflict on the international nonproliferation regime.
In 1978, Congress passed legislation banning the sale of nuclear technology to countries that were not party to the NPT in order to bolster nonproliferation efforts. That same year, the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) — an organization created by the United States in response to a 1974 Indian nuclear detonation — publicly affirmed their commitment to abide by the same proscription. Thus far, all members have kept the commitment. Consequently, there is concern that conferring the benefits of NPT membership on India, a non-NPT country, will undermine one of the treaty’s chief incentives. The lure of such nuclear cooperation, after all, was one of the factors that led China to sign the NPT in 1992. Moreover, there is concern that now–during intense multilateral negotiations over the fate of North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs–is a singularly inopportune time to carve out exceptions to the rules.
To address these problems, you must alter your current approach, which, according to Robert Joseph, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, is simply “to treat India as a unique case.” For those members of Congress who are worried about eroding the existing nonproliferation regime, the “exceptional” approach is far more troubling than one that establishes criteria whereby any non-NPT signatory could theoretically gain access to civilian nuclear technology. By framing it in this manner, the U.S.-India agreement could become more of a corollary to the NPT and NSG guidelines than a violation of them.
Furthermore, you will strengthen your case for nuclear technology-sharing with India (as opposed to, say, Pakistan) by proposing that the criteria for cooperation include an impeccable record of non-proliferation, and that any necessary changes to the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines be made in accordance with its customary consensus procedure.
If the Administration continues to encounter difficulties with members of Congress, you should add an extra nonproliferation condition: The recipient country must cease to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons and sign the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) as soon as it is successfully negotiated. None of the nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT is currently producing such materials, and the FMCT would formalize this arrangement. India might well agree to this condition because of the other benefits it would receive through the global partnership.
Third and finally, you must address concerns in Congress over India’s equivocal stance on Iran’s nuclear program. In both word and deed, India has undermined U.S.-backed efforts to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for violating the NPT. India has been unwavering in its support of Iran’s right to a civilian nuclear energy program–a right the Bush Administration believes Iran forfeited by, among other things, covertly enriching uranium. Moreover, India’s foreign minister recently visited Iran and spoke of his hope for “continuing and expanding” ties between the countries, which include a proposed $4 billion gas pipeline that would run through Pakistan.
To members of Congress, India’s unwillingness to back the U.S. position on Iran casts doubt on whether New Delhi can be trusted to uphold its end of the global partnership. At a House International Relations Committee hearing in early September, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) observed that he would “not like to see a . . . set of developments with respect to India whereby we agree to undertake a tremendous range of path-breaking measures to accommodate India, while India blithely pursues what it sees should be its goals and policy vis-à-vis Iran. . . . Without reciprocity, India will get very little help from Congress.”
You can best respond to such concerns by persuading Congress that India has done a great deal to accommodate the U.S. position on Iran, but that full, unqualified support is an unrealistic expectation. India, after all, has rapidly escalating energy needs — its demand for oil and gas is expected to double by 2020 — and is looking to Iran to help meet them. If the United States wishes to facilitate India’s becoming a regional counterweight to China, it can hardly expect India to sever all ties with a major energy provider.
Furthermore, while many congressmen are dissatisfied with the September 24, 2005 IAEA resolution calling for Iran’s referral to the Security Council at a later, unspecified date, they should recognize that India’s support for that resolution is a significant development. Indeed, Prime Minister Singh’s political party has come under fire at home for conceding too much to the United States, and India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman had to go out of his way to insist that India’s vote on the IAEA resolution was a product of “its own independent assessment”, not a gesture to the United States linked to the nuclear deal.
A final way to reassure congressmen who remain uneasy about India’s relationship with Iran is by instituting a reporting system modeled on the one that governs international arms sales. Such a system would mandate that Congress be notified 30 days prior to any major nuclear transaction, thus providing it ample opportunity to block such exchanges if India’s efforts on nonproliferation should ever become problematic.
The Administration is attempting to take a notably pragmatic approach to India. It would be a shame if U.S. policy stumbles not on account of factors abroad over which we have limited foresight and control, but over the Administration’s mishandling of Congress. Take these three steps and you will avoid that hazard.
CC: OVP, SECDEF, SECEN, DCI.