The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region, carried an article written by Assistant Professor of Social Sciences (Political Science) Rohan Mukherjee and Karthik Sivaram, an independent researcher based in San Francisco. They wrote about the landmark Joint Statement issued by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thirteen years ago, in which the United States resolved to achieve “full civil nuclear energy cooperation” with India. With the removal of export controls and restrictions under the nuclear deal, the US-India defence partnership has not only boosted bilateral defence trade, but also created an unprecedented level of mutual trust between the two countries, facilitating cooperation on a number of fronts including counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing, military exercises, defence co-production, and strategic coordination.
The authors argue that two main factors contributed to building trust between both sides. First, the United States began signalling its desire for better relations after India’s 1998 nuclear tests, which put India firmly in Washington’s sights as a major regional power (in part as a potential counterweight to a rising China). Second, the conviction and leadership of key officials were crucial in overcoming institutional inertia on both sides. While the nuclear cooperation that the deal promised has failed to materialise, the authors conclude that the US-India nuclear deal was about much more than nuclear power. It was a foundational step in the construction of a strategic partnership of global consequence, allowing policymakers in both countries today to have a deep well of mutual trust on which to draw in dealing with bilateral irritants.