In The Acorn’s view, nuclear power presents an opportunity for countries to solve their energy problems; provided of course that adequate systemic, legal and international safeguards are put in place to address environmental, health, security and weapons proliferation concerns. So there should be nothing wrong Bangladesh seeking Chinese assistance to set up a nuclear power plant to answer its energy requirements? Not quite.
The most striking part about the China-Bangladesh nuclear deal is that it is more about politics than about economics. For Bangladesh, an alternative to the much-politicised international gas pipeline linking Myanmar and Bangladesh to India strengthens its negotiating hand. Furthermore, the deal allows Bangladesh to engage in that age-old trick of counterbalancing bigger powers, by playing the China card against India.
Once Bangladesh becomes less inclined to allow a gas-pipeline to pass through its territory, China would succeed in delaying or seriously damaging India’s attempts to secure overland access to Myanmar’s gas fields. As for the Myanmarese junta, they would hardly mind selling their gas to China instead. The South-East Asian mainland is already connected to Southern China through a road network — building a gas-pipeline alongside is a distinct possibility. Prevailing over the difficult terrain is an engineering challenge, while prevailing over the tribal militias and local regimes is a political one: China has proven to be more than equal to these challenges.
That India finds itself a peripheral observer to these developments is primarily because it finds its foreign policy haunted by the ghost of Gujral’s doctrine. King Gyanendra’s intransigence and Khaleda Zia’s overtures to China are but symptoms of a failed policy mindset as is the ‘unholy hype’ over Wen Jiabao’s visit. A seat in the UN Security Council does not ensure security, nor is it a substitute for a robust foreign security policy. Indeed, securing a Pax Indica through the greater use of deliberate irrationalism affords much greater benefits than being reluctant to anger China lest it refuse to support India’s ambitions at the United Nations.