‘Paris deal was a charade that gave leeway to India, China’

Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.APPablo Martinez Monsivais

Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.APPablo Martinez Monsivais  

In his book, Bolton plays down the 2019 India-Pak. crisis

Former U.S. National Security Adviser (NSA) John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, was officially released in the U.S. on Tuesday but much has been written about it in the press already. India finds a few mentions in the book, none of them positive, many neutral, and several as a country that has not fallen in line in the context of international treaties.

For instance, Mr. Bolton calls the Paris Agreement a ‘charade’ that has given ‘leeway’ to countries like China and India, leaving them “essentially unfettered”.

He talks about the threat the U.S. allies and others face from the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty because a number of countries such as China are not party to it.

“China, for example, had the greatest proportion of its large, growing, already-deployed missile capabilities in the INF-forbidden range, endangering U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea, as well as India and Russia itself, a fine irony,” Mr. Bolton writes. He goes on to add India to the list of countries, along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan whose nuclear arsenal was poised to expand. The U.S. quit the treaty in August last year, having announced its intention to leave six months prior to that.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Mr. Bolton notes that “other nuclear powers” like India and China have neither ratified nor signed the treaty. “...Unsigning the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty should be a priority, so the United States can again conduct underground nuclear testing.”

Six-month exemption

In November 2018, India was one of eight countries that got a six-month exemption from U.S. sanctions on the purchase of Iranian oil, after the U.S. decided to unilaterally pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an international treaty signed deal during the Obama years that sought to limit Iran’s nuclear programme. Mr. Trump, “while oscillating on any given day on any given issue,” in Mr. Bolton’s telling, was “vibrating increasingly” on the side of the scale that favoured ending the waivers after six months.

“In a phone call with Pompeo, Trump had not been sympathetic to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, ‘He’ll be okay.’ I recall a similar conversation reflecting Trump’s indifference to notifying allies about waiver decisions,” Mr. Bolton writes, adding that while India’s arguments for continuing waivers was understandable, it was ‘incomprehensible’ to him [Mr. Bolton] that the U.S. bureaucrats would echo these so sympathetically. India had been concerned, Mr. Bolton writes, about finding new suppliers to replace Iran and worried that it would have to pay market prices — Iran had been charging below market prices to get rid of its oil.

On Afghanistan, Mr. Trump was complaining, as per Mr. Bolton, about how the U.S. was spending all these resources and that it was time to withdraw. “We’ll never get out. This was done by a stupid person named George Bush,” he told me.

“India builds a library and advertises it all over,” Mr. Trump had allegedly said.

On the India-Pakistan crisis in early 2019 (the Balakot air strikes following the Pulwama terror attack), Mr. Bolton questions whether there was a real crisis at all. He talks about phone calls with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford:

“After hours of phone calls, the crisis passed, perhaps because, in substance, there never really had been one. But when two nuclear powers spin up their military capabilities, it is best not to ignore it. No one else cared at the time, but the point was clear to me: this was what happened when people didn’t take nuclear proliferation from the likes of Iran and North Korea seriously.”

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