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India Needs the Bomb
By JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER
The New York Times, March 24, 2000

CHICAGO -- Despite its huge population, booming economy and growing
nuclear arsenal, President Clinton, like his predecessors, refuses to show 
India the respect it deserves. He thereby perpetuates a needless 
estrangement between two natural allies.

This disrespect is most apparent on the nuclear front. In his address to the 
Indian Parliament on Wednesday, Mr. Clinton acknowledged many of India's 
concerns, but he did not give up his call for India to abandon its nuclear 
weapons. The administration wants India to sign both the Comprehensive Test 
Ban Treaty and the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. India, 
however, refused to sign the nonproliferation treaty when it took effect in 
1970 and refused again when the treaty was extended in 1995. India tested 
nuclear weapons in 1998 and has made it clear that it intends to build
powerful nuclear forces.

The Clinton administration should stop opposing these moves and recognize 
that India is not going to give up its nuclear arsenal. India did not 
acquire these weapons for frivolous reasons, like misplaced pride or 
domestic politics, as some Americans believe. Rather, India, like the United 
States, had sound strategic reasons for wanting them.

Nuclear weapons are an excellent deterrent against aggression, and India 
lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Since gaining independence in 1947, it 
has fought three wars with Pakistan and has come close to war with Pakistan 
three other times. India also fought a losing war with China in 1962 over 
the still-contested Sino-Indian border. Moreover, both Pakistan and China 
have their own nuclear weapons, and over the next two decades, China will 
move to develop a much larger arsenal. India would be foolish to allow China 
to gain a nuclear advantage over it.

The Persian Gulf war of 1991 and the Kosovo war in 1999 also hardened
India's determination to possess nuclear weapons. The United States easily 
beat Iraq and Serbia by exploiting its enormous advantage in conventional 
arms. Had either foe possessed nuclear weapons, the United States might not 
have gone to war. This lesson was not lost on India.

Finally, as President Clinton acknowledged on Wednesday, American
hypocrisy on nuclear issues rubs Indians the wrong way. The United States 
allows itself to have nuclear weapons for its own security but says India 
should not have them for the same purpose. We expect India to sign the test 
ban treaty even though the United States Senate rejected it.

The Clinton administration should reverse course and recognize that India is 
a legitimate nuclear state, like Britain and Russia, not a dangerous nuclear 
rogue like North Korea. It should allow India to keep its nuclear weapons 
and sign the nonproliferation treaty, with all the attendant rights and 
obligations.

As a start toward closer political ties, the administration could 
supportIndia's membership in the United Nations Security Council. At  the 
same time, however, the United States should not one-sidedly favor India 
against Pakistan when Pakistan has legitimate concerns. Instead, the United 
States should strive to be a fair broker when disputes arise.

A more realistic policy toward India would benefit both Asia and American 
interests.

First, the United States could do more to resolve the conflict between India 
and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir. India adamantly refuses to allow 
the United States to mediate that 53-year-old conflict because it has long 
felt that Washington favors Pakistan. But if the United States demonstrated 
even-handedness, showing greater sensitivity to India's interests, India 
might conceivably welcome constructive mediation.

Second, a more realistic policy would promote nuclear stability on the 
subcontinent. For example, by dropping its prohibition on nuclear weapons, 
the United States could provide India and Pakistan modern
command-and-control technologies that would make their arsenals safer and 
more reliable. It could also share valuable safety lessons it learned from 
its competition with the Soviet Union.

Third, in the not-too-distant future, the United States may need other Asian 
countries to help it contain China. It would be difficult to fashion an 
effective coalition of Asian countries without India as a central pillar.

Fourth, with its increasing economic power, especially in software and 
pharmaceuticals, India is becoming an important player in international 
economic groups like the World Trade Organization. The United States has an 
interest in making India a cooperative rather than a disruptive force in 
those institutions.

India and the United States are the world's two largest democracies, and  
they are both multicultural democracies to boot. It only makes sense or  
them to be on the same side. It is thus not only in America's economic and  
strategic interests to become closer to India, but fully in line with its  
principles and ideals.

  John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University  
of Chicago.

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