Reading through the news this morning, I came across a headline in the Washington Post that got me to thinking about the U.S.-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement:
The long and the short of the story is that India inked an $11 billion deal with France for 126 Rafale fighter jets. We’ve known since last April that New Dehli had ruled out purchasing planes from U.S. defense firms (i.e. Boeing and Lockheed Martin). It’s also true that the U.S. and India have concluded other defense deals and more sales are being considered.
But many proponents of the U.S.-India deal argued at the time the pact was being consummated that it would create lucrative new markets for U.S. defense and nuclear business. This hasn’t exactly turned out to be the case.
Speaking of nuclear business, U.S. companies have still not yet started nuclear trade with India and may be reluctant to do so if New Delhi does not resolve concerns regarding its policies on liability for nuclear reactor suppliers in the event of an accident.
As you may remember, we were quite skeptical of the deal on nonproliferation, national security, and economic grounds when it was an issue before Congress in 2007 and 2008. Last June, Michael Krepon provided an assessment of the status of the implementation of the agreement to date, and asked whether in retrospect supporters or critics of the deal had the better argument.
According to Krepon, “So far, U.S. backers of the deal have…been proven wrong on every count.” It’s difficult to disagree.
UPDATE 2/2: For more on why the current U.S. approach to civilian nuclear cooperation in general doesn’t appear to make much sense, see my post from last week here.