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The United States and India have taken another step down the road of nuclear cooperation through the 123 Agreement. The U.S. was able to ensure that India would not be in a position to use foreign uranium to make bombs, while India was able to ensure that it could reprocess spent uranium into reactor-grade plutonium for its advanced breeder reactors. India remains in a position to conduct nuclear weapons tests but would have to pay some price for doing so. What the U.S. has given up is the strategy of holding India’s uranium access hostage to restrictions on its nuclear weapons program.

In short, America is moving to give India second-class membership in the nuclear club. Congress will have to approve the decision, but previous votes on this issue have passed with very wide margins. The hurdle of the Nuclear Suppliers Group remains. All major states in the group, including China, have expressed some degree of assent to the U.S.-India deal.

There have been a number of recent steps to enhance security cooperation between the United States and India. The U.S. has also hinted at offering India one of its most advanced fighter planes, the newly developed Joint Strike Fighter. India, America, Japan, and Australia are conducting joint naval exercises. This has led to complaints from China. Lockheed-Martin, a leading American weapons producer, has announced a joint venture with Wipro, the Indian information tehchnology services provider, to develop military electronic technologies.

The most critical security issue for Delhi and Washington remains Pakistan. A jihadi coup would create an immediate and massive security crisis for both nations. A curious convergence is happening even without any overt policy coordination. India is giving up on Pakistani democracy, even as the Pakistani judiciary and elements of civil society take bold initiatives to restore democratic processes. The same Pakistanis who earlier demanded that India make concessions on Kashmir to their new dictator are now demanding that India refrain from making a deal with him because he is a dictator. With Musharraf disinclined to pursue the old agenda against India, Delhi has begun to look upon him with favor. A major trade agreement between India and Pakistan has just been concluded. As the jihadi organizations have gained independent strength, India has begun to fear that these organizations are the most likely successors to Musharraf. For decades, Indians believed that Pakistani hostility toward India was stoked by the Pakistan Army to create conditions for its own political control of the country. Democracy was seen as the antidote.

America has never been enthusiastic about Pakistani democracy, finding the Army easier to bend to its wider aims. In recent years the U.S. has begun to fear that the real alternative to Army rule is jihadi rule. America seeks a pliable Pakistani dictatorship with a democratic façade. Between the Pakistani democracy movement, India, and America, somebody is making a big mistake.

In mid-August, Musharraf had his cabinet raise the specter of emergency rule. After receiving a call from Condoleeza Rice at 2 a.m. his time, he declared there would be no emergency, for the time being. An emergency declaration would eliminate the façade of constitutional rule that is so important for the dignity of the Pakistani middle class. However the current crisis plays out, we must ask whether democracy is socially possible at this point in Pakistan’s history. It is possible to imagine viable democratic scenarios for Pakistan, but these would require drastic reforms to the structure of the Army. Things would have to go just right, and that is very unlikely.

The democratic movement in Pakistan has an outside chance at forcing a free election; it has little chance of sustaining the rule of the winners. Both the Army and the jihadis are contemptuous of the people, and would not respect their verdict. Musharraf has transformed the old civil-military establishment into the military establishment. He has created a system of military privilege that senior officers have financial interest in maintaining. And, of course, the Army created an ecosystem of institutions for the production of jihad, which have now slipped beyond its command. The bloody raid on the Lal Masjid has decisively broken the Army-jihadi truce in the Pathan areas. Both the armed rivals are opposed to democracy.

Across the American political spectrum, the idea of military action across the Afghan border into Pakistan is gaining currency. The main constraint is the paucity of soldiers available for a potentially massive guerilla war. The U.S. began to build up the Afghan Army this year, after prolonged and costly neglect. The best bet for the United States and its allies in Afghanistan is to bleed quietly for another year or even two, and build up the Afghan Army as fast as possible. The mission of clearing terrorists from lands long claimed by Afghanistan is likely to be taken up with great enthusiasm by Afghan soldiers, especially if they receive adequate fire support from their Western allies.

Differences remain between the U.S. and India. The American attitude toward Iran is mired in contradictions, but there are elements of intense hostility. India considers Iran to be somewhat friendly and even trustworthy, despite the election of a fundamentalist and unbalanced President. The American intention to sell large amounts of weapons to Iran’s neighbors is, on balance, good news. It means that Washington will allow the Iranian regime to survive, align with Shias in Iraq, even go nuclear, and thus require containment.

Sanjoy Banerjee teaches International Relations at San Francisco State University.

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