February 20, 2006Foreign Affairs

Preventing the proliferation of air-conditioners

The proliferation of non-proliferation ideology to your bedroom

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

According to the New York Times the Bush administration’s nuclear deal with India is misbegotten’. The editorial does not stray far from the non-proliferation ideological line — that making an exemption for India will threaten the NPTs carrot-and-stick” approach. Bizarrely, it also has problems with Indian middle-class homes turning their air-conditioners on the year round.

In the new enclaves for India’s emerging middle class and its rapidly rising nouveau riche, environmentally unsustainable, high-ceilinged houses feature air-conditioning systems that stay on year round. [NYT]

This is perhaps the first time that the proliferation of airconditioners has been linked with the the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Wrongly, in both instances.

The New York Times also gets India’s position on the Iran issue quite wrong. It suggests that India’s support for referring Iran to the UN Security Council was with an eye on the US-India’ deal. That is a misconception, but an understandable one. But like its comment on airconditioning, the newspaper is way too far down the path of unreason when it points out that despite the nuclear deal with the United States, India should be faulted for purchasing oil and gas from Iran, Venezuela and Sudan - regimes that Washington wants to isolate’. Far-reaching as it may be, the US-India nuclear deal does not envisage the wholesale replacement of oil and gas with American supplied nuclear fuel. Neither does it envisage India having to toe the American foreign policy line on everything.

But as bizarre arguments go, the New York Times reserves the best for the last: it advises the Bush administration to push for serious energy conservation steps. This as a recipe to weaken Iran’s stranglehold’ over oil markets is one thing. How this will solve India’s energy requirements (and address the current debate over bringing India into the international nuclear market) remains as an exercise for its puzzled readers.

Right Said Fareed

Coincidentally, Fareed Zakaria’s Newsweek column works as an effective rebuttal to the more reasonable of the New York Times’ arguments.

The benefits for the United States—and much of the world—are real. This agreement would bring a rising power into the global tent, making it not an outsider but a stakeholder, and giving it an incentive to help create and shape international norms and rules. For example, India is becoming more worried about a nuclear Iran for this reason, and not because it is being pressured to do so by the United States. When India was being treated like an outlaw, it had no interest in playing the sheriff.

Of course, some nonproliferation ideologues in Washington view the administration’s shift with great skepticism. For them, it rewards India for going nuclear and sets a bad precedent. But the truth about nuclear weapons is that there has always been an exception for major powers—Britain, France, Russia, China. The only real question is, does India belong in that group? Also, what is the alternative policy toward India that has any chance of changing its status—more lectures on nonproliferation? [Newsweek]

Tailpiece: The person(s) who wrote the New York Times’ editorial is welcome to spend the summer in India…without air-conditioners, of course.

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