The notion that President Bush blundered in promising to help India develop its nuclear energy program is understandable, widespread -- and wrong. With the Pentagon warning in a new assessment of the long-term threat posed by China's military buildup, and a Chinese general huffing about lobbing nuclear weapons at the U.S. (although Beijing officially and predictably said he wasn't speaking for the government), Bush's move is long overdue.
This editorial page has fretted about rewarding India for subverting the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (New Delhi never signed) and worried that North Korea and Iran would seek further concessions after seeing India's gains. But proliferation depends less on whether countries have signed the treaty than on whether they think it's in their national interest to possess nuclear weapons (South Africa, for instance, voluntarily abdicated its nuclear arsenal). Meanwhile, it's an open secret that the treaty is being subverted by Iran and battered by Brazil, which is refusing to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency unfettered access for inspections. The problem doesn't rest in the treaty itself but elsewhere: If perks such as permanent U.N. Security Council membership weren't implicitly tied to being a member of the recognized Big Five nuclear powers -- the U.S., Britain, China, Russia and France -- other countries might not suffer so much nuclear envy.