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Explaining Negotiations

Arun Vishwanathan

By Dinshaw Mistry
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. xii 280, Rs. 695.00


The Indo-US nuclear agreement was a watershed in many ways. First, it led to the de-hyphenation of India and Pakistan and their relations vis-a-vis the United States. The agreement signalled a significant investment by the United States in its relationship with the US. Also, it led to the Indo-US relations being seen as a bilateral relationship rather than from the lens of the American relations with Pakistan, which was how New Delhi historically perceived it. Secondly, the agreement altered, in a significant way, the nonproliferation and export control regime that the US and its allies had put in place following the Indian 1974 nuclear explosion. Thirdly, after decades of isolation, the agreement allowed India to re-engage the international civilian nuclear market.  Though there have been other books on the Indo-US nuclear agreement1 the book by Dinshaw Mistry is useful and important. One of the significant reasons for this is that Mistry develops a framework for explaining nuclear negotiations. As Mistry correctly points out (p. 4), there is a wide body of literature on explaining nuclear proliferation and countries’ rationale behind developing nuclear weapons.2 However, recognizing the need for a different explanatory framework for nuclear negotiations and attempting to put forth such a framework is the work’s singular achievement.  Another important aspect of the book is the detail which Mistry has gone into while assimilating data on various actors, actions which influenced the negotiations. The data is beautifully condensed into tables and provides useful information on the influence of the media, lobbying activities, expert testimonies in the US Congress and the like. The data provide important background information and contextualizes the ‘wheels within wheels’ which were moving to make the agreement a reality.  Mistry explains the Indo-US nuclear negotiations through interplay of diplomacy and domestic factors which include bureaucratic politics, legislative opposition and mobilization by supporter and opponents. This interplay fashioned the broad parameters of ‘win sets’ of both countries thereby laying down the contours of a ‘possible’ agreement which would be palatable to both countries and their respective domestic constituents.  Mistry briefly recaps the story of how India and the US got to the historic July 2005 Bush-Manmohan Joint Statement. The two countries traversed through fourteen rounds of Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott talks, to the November 2002 High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG), to the July 2004 Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) before the initial discussions on widening and deepening the scope of the Indo-US ...

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