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If India Tests? The Implications for the Indo-U.S. Civil-Nuclear Deal

Justine Isola is Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for detailed profile
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  • August 26, 2010

    By some calculations, the chances that India will test a nuclear weapon in the coming years are not high. But if India again surprises the world as it did in 1998 with five nuclear explosions in the desert of Rajasthan, then conversations on the implications for the Indo-U.S. civil-nuclear deal will begin. The record of debate on testing during negotiations reflects the depth of American concern that testing will lead to unstable nuclear escalation and the lengths the U.S. went to in order to deter India from conducting new tests. But it also underscores U.S. resolve to forge a new relationship with India despite evident disagreement on a thorny issue. Studying the finely wrought language of the deal reveals some persisting ambiguity about how the deal would be affected if India were to resume testing. However, in the event of a test, it’s a safe bet that several factors will play into determining U.S. response: the preferences of U.S. leaders, domestic lobbying, and geopolitical balance of power considerations. This response will be constrained by the strength of the U.S.-India relationship. Further, due to India's deepening nuclear ties with the rest of the world, any U.S. response may have only a modest impact on India.

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