Friday, October 31, 2008


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I liked W enough to watch it twice, something that I have rarely done with a movie. I saw it twice because I wanted to again get the logic-defying feeling of how incomprehensible and bizarre the story of George W Bush's rise to the presidency is. How did a simple-minded alcoholic bum, constantly living in the shadow of his grudging father who still bailed him out, become the most powerful man in the world? How did his intellectually bereft and wayward life, a large part of which was spent nurturing self-doubt, insecurity and ideals formed in his own little perfect world and perfectly ordinary mind, take him to the pinnacle of power, power so all-encompassing that it has changed the destiny of this country and the world forever and for the worse? And last but not the least, why did the American people elect George W Bush?

Perhaps disappointingly, Oliver Stone does not seek to answer these questions. But that is probably a wise choice since it is best to let history's own canon of psychoanalysis judge this man in the years to come and try to answer such questions, questions which almost certainly will ask that we look beyond the man and into the fabric of American history and its lofty love affair with ideals. Instead Stone simply and rivetingly lets the camera roll on W's life, lets his life flow as a stream of consciousness (and at times alcohol-induced unconsciousness) from Yale to Washington, from nothingness to everything. Also wisely, Stone does not try to either provide a scathing review of W and his impact on our civilization; again history will be the more comprehensive judge of that and will have plenty of fodder and time to keep itself occupied for decades. But most importantly, unlike he did in his epic biopic Nixon, Stone does not try to portray W as a flawed, tragic hero who set out to do good but ended up taking the country and himself into a downward spiral. Such a portrayal would be a great disservice to the people of this country.

Instead Stone gives us a ring side seat in the circus that was Bush's life. In order to accomplish this, he calls upon a superb cast of actors who are faced with the always difficult task of playing living characters. Josh Brolin's George Bush deserves at least an Oscar nomination. It must have been formidable to play a character who cannot be caricatured because he is a caricature of himself. Only Bush can imitate Bush's Texan drawl, his condescending and patronizing looks, his smug "mission-accomplished" smile, his wonderful love affair with the English language and his mind which seems to avoid all complexities and directly charges towards fatal, simplistic and delusional world views. Yet Brolin does a superb job and roots himself into this strange man's shoes, often brilliantly illuminating his tics and quirks. Stone surrounds Brolin with actors who each convincingly play infamous people in Bush's life. Not surprisingly, Richard Dreyfuss does the best job in playing Dick Cheney. He looks more than a little like Cheney and imitates the chameleon-like Cheney with his devious and sinister mind exceedingly accurately. James Cromwell does not look like Bush senior but does a great job in playing out HW's emotional and caring personality. Elizabeth Baker as Laura Bush, Toby Jones as Karl Rove and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell are all very good.

In order to comprehend the convoluted disaster that is George W Bush, Stone focuses on a few key factors, events and people who most shaped him. Perhaps key among these is the relationship he had with his father, an emotional, stern and grudging man who always doted on George's brother, was orders of magnitude more accomplished than his bumbling son, and in spite of all his condescending disapproval, could not stop himself from bailing out this cantankerous infant from every sticky situation- from getting him out of jail after a drunk party to providing a launching pad for him for several jobs, none of which W could sustain. One almost gets a feeling that George Bush was bent on becoming the president to please his father. That was the only way he could redeem himself in the old man's eyes, the way a child would climb a taller tree than his father did simply to show his father who was stronger. More importantly that seems to have been the only way in which he could recognize his self-worth.

There are other crutches that the insecure, idealistic young man grasps at, crutches that would shape his life and his country in profound ways. One is his friend Karl Rove who seems to have genuinely cared for him since the early days. The other is the nefarious Dick Cheney, a man who was already highly experienced and accomplished in the art of politicking and deception when W came to power. Condoleeza Rice provided an archetypal yes-man, fawning and smiling, tacitly agreeing with everything even if she may not agree with anything in reality. If Rice ever harbored dissenting opinions, she always kept her mouth shut. Between her shuttling back and forth on planes and shaking hands with a record number of heads of state, Rice was the classic accomplice to sin in the Bush administration. So dedicated was she to this man that she decided to adopt his picture of the world to her own picture frame even if the frame bent and cracked in the process. And as for Donald Rumsfeld, he played the intellectual-sounding decisive powerhouse that Bush perhaps secretly wanted to be. A veteran of the Ford, Reagan and senior Bush administrations, like Bush, Rumsfeld was convinced that the key to establishing America's place in the world was a psychological war of ideas and principles. Paradoxically, or perhaps not so at all, Rummy's ideas were to ride in Humvees and were to be perched on top of bazooka launchers.

These individuals who Bush surrounded himself with provided him with the intellectual tools he lacked to comprehend the world. Because he could not judge the consequences of his thoughts and actions, he let his advisors shape them, and trusted them wholeheartedly. Like Ronald Reagan, he liked to reduce complex scenarios to old buddy kind of tales, no matter how distorted the analogies might be. For example, in one scene, he ominously and quickly equates Cheney's accounts of possible "advanced interrogation techniques" to his own hazing days in the secret Skull and Bones Yale society when incoming Bonesmen were stripped, drenched with beer and asked to recall the names of senior Bonesmen (George does good in this). Such techniques could not possibly be immoral if they were simply glorified versions of Yale fraternity boys' pranks. Hell, they could even sound like fun.

Perhaps this was Bush's way of conveniently laying possible blame for the consequences on others and embedding such policies in some moral, righteous, harmless vision . But mostly it was his way of reinforcing the age-old neoconservative conviction of seeing American as the world's steward, himself as the good guy and other unpleasant characters in the world as well-defined cartoon villains. If he, George Bush believed something and if that something was articulated eloquently by Dick Cheney, it must be the right thing to do and anyone who opposes it must be wrong and "against him". Bush's worldview combined with his advisors shaping it into bite-sized righteous-looking chunks, gave a decidedly objective aura to his subjective opinions. That pleased him. After this, it was not too difficult to see the world as a paradigm of "us vs them". Curiously, one can almost forgive the younger Bush for harboring idealistic opinions and ambitions. But one can never forgive him for not changing those rose-colored goggles when the situation critically demanded it, and for intentionally surrounding himself with advisors who were more than eager to oblige and tell him exactly what he wanted to hear.

Together, these advisors provided Bush with a cast of dark, vindictive and sinister policy makers who wanted to bring about the "permanent majority" that Karl Rove often touted. After 9/11 they had a field day as far as selling their viewpoints to the President was concerned. They helped to shape the faltering, semi-coherent thoughts in the deep recesses of his mind into tangible policy decisions and applicable principles. One of the most revealing and fascinating scenes is when in the situation room of the White House, Bush and his advisors are hard at work trying to come up with a plausible reason for attacking Iraq. Part of the motivation definitely was Poppy Bush's visceral hatred for Saddam. But Bush's main role in trying to rationalize such a history-defining event seems to simply let Cheney take the reins. In a 10 minute monologue in which Bush simply listens and then in a symbolic gesture gets up from his place at the head of the table and retreats to the side next to Rove into the shadows, Dick Cheney massages, spins and weaves the extremely serious consequences of this pivotal action and all the moral baggage it may carry into a perfectly plausible and moral-sounding tale of how such an event would not only secure America's presence in the Middle East but also bring democracy and stability to the unstable region. It's almost as if Cheney wants to convince everyone in the room of the primarily moral nature of American intervention, and wants to tout the access to Middle Eastern oil that it would give the United States almost as a side-benefit. It's a masterful performance, quite certainly one of many Cheney must have provided on cue. Everyone in the room comes up with their own reasoning to support it, and needless to say, the Commander in Chief buys it hook, line and sinker. It is perfectly in line with his glazed, monolithic view of the world and his own destiny.

Everyone agrees...well, almost everyone. Not Colin Powell. Powell is the only bona fide soldier in the room, and he constantly questions the wisdom of both the practical and moral aspects of such intervention. He has extended tense moments with Cheney. Most of his objections are listened to with the kind of patronizing impatience that parents accord children when they are trying to convince them of something. In the end, short of ganging up on him, Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney and finally Bush make it clear to Powell; he is either in or out. Powell grudgingly concedes, realizing that it would be better to be an insider, go along with policy and try to have at least some influence rather than be expelled from formal decision making and be ineffectual. In the end Powell was not only ineffectual but shouldered a considerable moral burden, but at least he tried.

Along with human crutches, there were the transcendental ones that saved George Bush. A habitual alcoholic, Bush gave up drinking when he was about 40, disillusioned by his own lack of success in life and his inability to foster a more focused destiny for himself. Under the care of one of those quintessentially pious-sounding, ruddy Texas pastors, Bush probably achieves the one success in his life when he quits drinking. Religion catches hold of him like a spell and sets him on an irreversible trajectory, and not surprisingly when the turn of the century looms on the horizon, he is convinced that it is God who is going to bequeath the Presidency of the United States to him. It was one of the signature hallmarks of religious thinking- a tendency to reinterpret the facts to suit your worldview instead of adopting your worldview to keep in line with the facts- that defined much of his actions. After that, creationism in schools, faith-based initiatives and messianic missions to the Middle East were only a step away.

Among many questions that that the movie asks, one in particular may seem trivial, but it cannot escape our minds. Why did Laura marry George Bush? Bush meets the pretty Laura Welch at a party. There is some political conflict since she is not rooting for Barry Goldwater, but the idealistic educator finds this naive, linguistically challenged, simple minded man a fundamentally good person. Like many of his advisors, she then becomes wedded to the idea of George Bush rather than George Bush himself. Even when she can see the flaws, she sees him as a struggling child who needs to be constantly supported in his hour of need. She is there for him at every step of the way, and while her metamorphosis into a benign version of Bush's mother is highly disappointing, we can sense the closeness and genuine love between the couple. One can only venture a guess about what this intelligent woman who loves educating children must have thought about her husband's no child left behind policy.

This then is the W that Stone portrays. His strange and depressing story looks like a work of fiction and gives us pause to think. In this land where genuine ability is guaranteed to bring you success, George's W Bush's ascendancy to power is a disturbing and ominous fact that would always glare at the world from the pages of history. W himself could care less for for it because as one of his own aberrantly memorable lines said it, "In history we will all be dead". We could say that this man would never have become President if it were not for his father. But W's story also points to an even more disturbing strain in the American psyche and in fact in the mind of human beings everywhere, painfully reinforced in 2004, that worships simple-mindedness and dumbed-down visions of the world. Perhaps it reflects a tendency in all of us to see the world in monolithic terms, a kind of world that all of us might possibly cherish. But such a world does not exist and it would be to our everlasting detriment to try to mould its complex elements into shreds of simplistic ideals and principles, and even more devastating to root for leaders who wallow in such amorphous dreams.

The fact that such a monolithic world does not exist is why it seems quite at home in a movie. In its review of the film, the Washington Post criticized Stone for producing a movie about George W Bush when in the last eight years the country and the world has already been living in a bad movie. Why do we need a movie about George Bush when George Bush has been the director, producer, cameraman, screenplay writer and costume expert for his own movie, one in which all of us have been grabbed by the scruff of our neck, made to get on our knees and forced to play a role?

To me the answer is simple. The movie that Bush has made is so all-pervasive that we may mistake it for the real world. It's not, or at least it should not be. And it's pivotal to drive this point home by making a real movie about those times. Stone has done just that.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity
This is Hitchens writing in Slate.

Sarah Palin is not sure about man-made climate change, would easily buy into the teaching of intelligent design along with science as a "healthy debate" and in her latest moment of glory denounced fruit fly research and also threw in a good measure of well-massaged xenophobia by noting that this research takes place in France. This is a woman who would not know a fruit fly from Spanish Fly, let alone the fact that the humble fruit fly is one of the most important organisms in modern biology, has led to a Nobel Prize and contributed some of the most profound insights in genetics and heredity used for fighting human disease.

The world really should have had enough of people spouting nonsense who don't know what the hell they are talking about, who celebrate ignorance as a "small-town" value and denounce learning, logical thinking, curiosity and knowledge of the world as elitist. The question on Nov 4 would be; do the American people actually think the same too? If not, they would get what they deserve.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008


I am in Boston for a conference this week, so I may not be able to blog, except when I want to complain about how non-existent the conference goodies were. Enjoy the fall.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

"Mr Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said: "The climate package is so important that we cannot simply drop it, under the pretext of a financial crisis."
This is Nicolas Sarkozy refusing to relax restrictions needed for attaining climate change goals, and asking to accept slightly slow economic growth as a sacrifice in this process. I cannot imagine a US president or many other world leaders for that matter saying this. In Thomas Friedman's new book, Friedman interviewed Sarkozy and Sarkozy quipped that he- an avowed lover of US culture and traditions- is sad that the US is not the world leader in fighting climate change. Now Sarkozy seems to have decided to don the mantle himself.

What we need for fighting climate change is a bailout. And in this case not just the government but all of us have to bail ourselves out. The significance of 10% growth fades into irrelevance when we compare it to the expediency of stabilizing emissions. With the kind of lifestyle and policies we sustain currently, it's simply going to be impossible to fight climate change and still sustain present levels of economic growth without decisive and large-scale mandates that are prudently enforced with widespread consensus and incentives.

It is heartening to see EU leaders setting an example and not fawning over corporate wishes to sustain constant rapid economic progress, even in the face of a financial crisis. This is decisive government intervention of the right kind. The times have passed for innovative free market solutions which will gradually be driven by consumer desires and take their own time to work (although some of them would still undoubtedly play an important role). We don't want to succeed in the operation and kill the patient. The motto here is simple; slow down today, live tomorrow. Maybe the US could think again about despising those wimpy French who love accordion music. For a change, please, learn something from them. But unfortunately it's not going to be enough for just the EU to enforce climate change goals. Climate change is a true tragedy of the commons with what happens on one continent spilling over disastrously into another.

And of course, I hope we all remember that Sarkozy belongs to the conservative, right-of-centre arm of French politics. I bet the liberals are not talking much right now. Or maybe they are just happy.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Critical analysis about the role of nuclear power in India's energy future cannot be dictated by dogma, incomplete information or political opposition to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal...

...Read the rest of the entry on Desipundit

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


This recent PhD comics strip really takes me back to my T.A. days. While I reminisce about those days with some nostalgia, I also feel more than a tinge of disappointment when I think about those pre-med undergraduate students. There are allegations that graduate student T.A.s look down upon undergrad pre-med students because they don't seem to be interested in the subject on hand.

I can say that this allegation is true. I remember that I was a pretty popular T.A. precisely because I was so lenient. If I had been strict or particular about the students being very accurate in their lab descriptions or punctual in assignment submission, I am sure each of my evaluations at the end of the term would have taught me a new word of profanity. Instead I got glowing evaluations at the end of all three terms, but I surprisingly did not feel particularly good about it. Looking back, I think that I may have been a little more strict with the students. But mostly I was lenient because like many other T.A.s, I would rather have spent the time grading assignments on research, reading and my own interests.

I don't blame the students completely for not being interested in the subject (organic chemistry) but rather I blame a system that makes students commit to a particular field of study even before they know what they are interested in. Why should a first year student be expected to have the well-thought out conviction to become a doctor? And yet that is what has been hammered into them by their wealthy parents and the educational system. Like I used to do back in India, I dreamt about how science would benefit if at least a handful of these students were to go on to graduate school and further research. I remember that from a total of about a hundred students over three terms, perhaps 5 were genuinely interested in knowledge for its own sake.

This also ties in with a controversial article that was written by a Harvard medical school dean a few weeks ago, in which he questions the value of courses like organic chemistry being important for a future pre med's education. His contention was that organic chemistry is not directly useful in a doctor's career. I was surprised that he did not understand the point here- the goal of organic chemistry or physics or mathematics is not to endow students with tools that would directly apply to their future lives and careers, it is to produce well-rounded citizens and thinkers who are aware of the important issues. I would think that this should be even more important for doctors who comprise some of the more important citizens of any country.

In India the situation is even worse and quite dismal; there is no debate there whether medical students should study physics because medical schools don't allow students to study physics. The situation is so bad that in my first year, I had to be helped by my father and had to put up a fight against the establishment just for studying both biology and mathematics together. Studying the humanities was out of the question. In the IITs the situation is slightly better but even there we need more flexibility.

When Newton was asked, “Of what use is your calculus to ua?”, he quipped, “Of what use is a newborn baby?”…The fact is that organic chemistry, physics, maths, all constitute a part of having a well-rounded scientific education, irrespective of who you are going to become. The question goes beyond the need for organic chemistry; all the aforementioned subjects teach you how to think, an art rapidly becoming scarce. Sadly many of today’s premeds show an obsession with grades, but not an obsession with learning how to think. That deficit when carried over into their career is going to harm both them and society.

On a more practical note, organic chemistry greatly helps to understand biochemistry. And nobody would be prepared to argue that biochemistry is not necessary to understand the basis of medicine. Tragically today’s premeds often don’t show interest even in biochemistry classes. Understanding of how drugs work at the very least would distinguish a great doctor from a merely good one. Plus, as the fruits of basic biomedical research (rational drug design, prodrugs, nanotechnology-based therapeutics) are increasingly going to be applied to future medicine, doctors who are not aware of these technologies will increasingly lack an understanding of what exactly their prescribed drugs are doing. And I don’t think I would be comfortable with getting treated by such a doctor. I might as well get treated by a shaman whose remedies have by and large worked well empirically.

Sometimes we carry the whole idea of goal-oriented education so far that we consign ourselves to a tunnel-vision induced mode of thought in which anything that is not 'directly' related to our future career is worthless. Part of this thinking also extends to those like my pre meds who are forced either by their own thinking or that of others to decide on a career when they don't really understand their own interests.

Clearly the problem here is with putting our own thinking in a straitjacket. In trying to focus, we have lost focus of the things that matter. In dawdling over details of specific subjects and their value to our careers, we are forgetting the value of thinking that matters in any career. The current trend if it continues will produce a group of highly specialized personnel who will be smack pat with known protocols and knowledge, but incapable of innovation.

In the end the question is, “Is our children learning?”. Maybe W would have been helped by an Orgo class. He would have flunked it, but it still would have been helpful.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


What strikes me is how normal this woman and her husband both seem. It's always seemed surprising to me how Americans have thought of Bush as someone who is "just like them" and someone who they would like to have a beer with. If I were asked this question, Barack and Michelle Obama easily look like they could be my next door neighbors; friendly and reasonable people with whom I could have dinner, have intelligent and serious conversations about the world, and who would be sensitive to the concerns of people and society and more than willing to entertain differing points of view. Bush as a neighbor would seem vindictive, stubborn, fawning when it suits him, and shallow and superficial in judging other people.

It's simple. I would not want to have a beer with him, because he would not want to have a beer with me. And that's the essential difference between the Bushes and the Obamas.



Watch Sean Hannity get hammered and his tongue tied into an eleven dimensional knot as Robert Gibbs demolishes him at his own game for advocating the guilt-by-association allegation against Obama that he, Palin and others have trotted out ad nauseum. And Keith Olbermann narrating the tale is the coup de grace.

One of the greatest wicked pleasures of my life is going to be to watch both Hannity and O'Reilly on the night after election night, trying to desperately cling on to and salvage their imaginary strands of phony outrage as Barack Obama wins.

And of course, no one other than John Cleese can conjure up something as endearing as this:

Ode to Sean Hannity
by John Cleese

Aping urbanity
Oozing with vanity
Plump as a manatee
Faking humanity
Journalistic calamity
Intellectual inanity
Fox Noise insanity
You're a profanity


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


From the debate yesterday, I get the feeling that Barack Obama and Joe Biden are set for a clear victory. McCain had one shot to redeem himself in the debate and he blew it. His campaign clearly is sounding more desperate every day, especially with the sleazy and incompetent joke Palin digging up and trotting out flimsy past association charges at Obama. When short on substance and devoid of hope, attack character. While that's standard issue strategy for all politicians, you know that things are getting desperate when that strategy starts to be put on display so proudly. All McCain can do now as was apparent yesterday is appear condescending and repeatedly say "my friends" as if that's some kind of a hypnotic suggestion like "your eyelids are getting heavier"; he expects that the phrase will zap people and brainwash them into taking him seriously.

Yesterday's debate also underscored an observation that I think is key which I noticed in the last debate; independent voters are consistently leaning towards Obama. The voter response lines for independent voters at the bottom of the screen (and Ohio independents no less) are not perfect predictors, but they clearly showed that independents are not impressed with John McCain even in his best moments now. Any theater director will tell you that his delivery is falling flat. To independents, his best moments are rightly and finally sounding like typical political boilerplate.

As the BBC says, Barack Obama is now emerging as a boxer who simply needs to dance around the ring and maybe knock a punch or two. Many people now clearly are condemning the McCain-Palin smear campaign and most of their supposedly rousing statements are falling flat on their face. All Obama needs to do now is to wait for a month and hopefully watch the McCain campaign implode. That does not mean he has to sit back and relax, but what he has to do is mainly let them keep on shooting themselves in the foot, which seems to be their essential quality.

We can all dream on that the Obama-McCain election's results will mirror the results of the Reagan-Mondale election, only in reverse. Let's hope that McCain carries Arizona.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008


If you knew little about the Nobel prizes, you could be easily forgiven for assuming that somebody must have already won the Nobel for discovering the AIDS virus. Many people probably do assume this. It just seems hard that such an important discovery has not already been recognized by the prize.

And yet, those who know the history know about the acrimonious dispute between Frenchman Luc Montagnier and American Robert Gallo about priority. The two were involved in a protracted and cantankerous debate with both camps claiming that they were the ones who discovered HIV and demonstrated its action. When I read the history, to me it was always clear that it was Montagnier whose team not only undoubtedly first isolated the virus, but actually proved that HIV causes AIDS, an absolutely crucial step in establishing the identity of a causative agent and a diagnostic step for the disease. While Gallo also played an important role in the latter, the history also indicated to me that he had engaged in some pretty cunning and disingenuous political manipulation to claim priority for the discovery.

It didn't really seem that the prize would be awarded to both of them. It may well have not been awarded to any of them. The Nobel committee usually steers clear of controversial people and topics. But it seems to have realized that it can no longer neglect the truly important people behind such an obviously groundbreaking discovery. So Luc Montaginer, along with Francois-Barre Sinoussi have finally been awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine. Barre-Sinoussi first isolated HIV. The committee clearly is trying to avoid controversy by specifically saying that the prize is for discovering HIV. Even Gallo should not have a problem conceding that it was Montagnier and Barre-Sinoussi who first saw and isolated the virus.

The other half deservedly goes to Harald Zur Hausen, discoverer of the human papilloma virus which causes cervical cancer.

I would recommend reading Virus, Montagnier's story of his life and his work.

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Friday, October 03, 2008


So it seems that India's nuclear deal with the US is almost finalized. Most people in India who care will agree that the deal bodes well for our country; it will create jobs, bring much needed technology needed for expanding clean, safe and efficient nuclear power and hopefully put India in the league of nations like France and Japan who get most of their energy from nuclear. The deal will also bring us dual-purpose technology which can be used for other civilian benefits. This will be a double boon for the country, considering the great energy demand that's going to materialize in modern and globalized India in the next twenty years.

Critics of the deal of course point out that it will undermine the NPT. But the NPT was undoubtedly undermined right at the beginning when it unfairly pitted countries like India against countries like the US and the Soviet Union which had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. While the provisions of the treaty called for the US and USSR to significantly reduce their arsenals in the coming decades, in practice the two countries simply expanded them in a frenzied arms race and even now, more than twenty five years after the end of the Cold War, possess thousands of weapons on hair-trigger alert. Given these facts, it was unfair for India or most other nuclear power-seeking countries to accept the treaty as it was conceived.

What might be a valid criticism is the allegation that this deal is part of the Bush administration's unilateral worldview where it alone decides who to give a pass and who to put up on the firing line when it comes to nuclear matters. As in other matters regarding the administration, the move seems to signify blatant hypocrisy. The usual complaint is that the deal clearly plays favourites. But the fact is that playing favourites in fact is legitimate, because some countries like India have been responsible nuclear powers while others like Pakistan have simply not been. How can you talk about treating countries the same if they are not the same in reality? This is one of those ironic situations where the Bush administration seems to have taken the right step even if it was part of a wrong philosophy.

Now, playing favourites certainly creates an imbalance and prompts countries like Pakistan to build more weapons, and that's a real concern in the minds of many. But there are two arguments here; first of all we have a good deterrent ability and Pakistan's building more weapons is not going to pose any additional threat to us. Secondly and more importantly, climate change has taken us so far to the brink of destruction that obtaining clean and carbon-free energy is much more important than even worrying about some inevitable proliferation that's going to happen. Thirdly of course, going by what is happening in Pakistan, it's unfortunately always going to pose a problem for us whether we do anything or not.

But what India can do to minimize proliferation is to stop building any more nuclear weapons. We have achieved a minimum deterrent capability. More weapons are only going to lead to an arms race between us and the Pakistanis without providing real strategic benefits. As Robert Oppenheimer would say, "Our two-thousandth weapon will not in any deep, strategic sense offset their two-hundredth weapon". In the future we can focus on delivery systems and stockpile maintenance. That could send the clearest possible message to Pakistan. It will say that we are a responsible nuclear power who have achieved the minimum arsenal necessary for deterrence and will now only practice peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It will ask of Pakistan whether it can step up to the challenge and do the same. Pakistan can make of this peaceful message what it wants to. But we would have played our responsible part.

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