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Can a Developing Nation Have an Equal Relationship With a Superpower?

In the post-Cold War era, the game of international politics has shifted from the one-upmanship tangles of the two Blocs to the unilateralist hegemony of the US, brought to clear light by the global events unfolding in the wake of 9/11.

In this scenario, it would be foolhardy to postulate that a developing nation can have an equal relationship with a superpower (read US). At best, the former can tweak the terms of engagement a bit to allow itself the space to hold negotiations on a more level footing.

Consider US President George Bush’s upcoming India visit. The one aspect that will determine its success or failure is the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. The UPA government’s handling of this issue is a fine hook on which to hang my argument.

Speaking solely of logistics, the deal heralds far greater advantage for India than it does for the US. While America may seek Indian support in containing China, it is India whose nuclearisation is essential for keeping in check the rampant animosity that it brooks in its backyard.

The onus of seeing the deal through therefore rests with the Indian government. This is precisely why the Prime Minister is sidesteeping domestic opposition to the deal, even at the cost of antagonising his allies.

Having said that, the government can hardly be accused of a sellout. It has identified facilities that will not be subjected to international inspection after Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr. Anil Kakodkar raised doubts over the future of India‘s nuclear programme if the fast breedor reactor was thrown open to purview.

While the government is conversant with the compulsions that surround the deal, it is unlikely that it will dither on vital issues of national security.

Each and every interaction must be governed by ‘enlightened self-interest’, one that makes the most of shared interests, while simultaneously conceding give-and take on points of individual welfare.

Only then can a developing nation salvage its dignity and not end up looking like a stooge. This holds true for all unequal relationships.

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