FURY, condemnation, disbelief. Washington bristled with these sentiments in the immediate aftermath of India’s nuclear tests. A hint of scorn too. Sample only Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth’s words to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, at a hearing last Wednesday: "There are reports from the Indian press which cite gleeful claims that India has now become the world’s sixth superpower—a fact which is apparent only to those making the claim. Clearly, the world thinks otherwise."
But amid all this, did the tests also bring a certain grudging respect for New Delhi? Perhaps leverage for a possible seat at the UN Security Council? Perhaps even a bargaining chip at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva?
Not at all, chimes a chorus of US officials, lawmakers, and analysts who claim they will never again trust India, which had claimed all along to be a conscientious objector to the world nuclear regime. And so the "ton of bricks", as one Western European diplomat put it, came hurtling down on New Delhi—an array of stiff economic sanctions, suspension of military cooperation. Envoy Richard Celeste, who happened to be in Hawaii, was recalled for consultations.
Once the US exploded, it was only a matter of time before foot-soldiers reacted with matching zeal. Australia and New Zealand were first off the block—withdrawing their envoys for talks hours after the blasts. Japan, with its own personal history never receding from mind, slapped tough economic sanctions. But world reaction was hardly homogenous. The powerful G-8, meeting at Birmingham, asserted that "there will be no collective sanctions". Of the eight, Japan and the US have slapped sanctions; but the others—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and Russia—opted for restraint. Spokesman Alastair Campbell stressed...