Elections provide an occasion for reflection and planning, and it is an opportunity that should be taken, for the priorities of an administration are set in its early days. Thus, the recent U.S. election makes timely an examination of Washington’s policy toward South Asia. Such an examination is well timed, also, because India has come to the forefront of the U.S. arms control agenda, owing to New Delhi’s opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which it expressed at the August 1996 Conference on Disarmament talks in Geneva. (India is one of forty-four countries listed in the CTBT’s Annex 2 that must ratify the treaty before it enters into force.)
Whether or not the United States finds a way to secure final adoption of the CTBT, the debate in Geneva and at the United Nations General Assembly has increased Washington’s frustration with New Delhi and may tempt the administration into a policy of isolating India. Before succumbing to that temptation, however, Washington would be well advised to consider that India remains important to U.S. interests in Asia, and so to focus on the totality of America’s South Asia policy rather than on arms control components alone, remembering that even nonproliferation and arms control cannot succeed without a larger framework.