With a whimper went President Bush's last, best chance for a positive legacy in international affairs. Last week administration officials conceded to the Financial Times that India would not approve a nuclear cooperation pact with Washington during Bush's tenure.
In March 2006, President Bush signed a nuclear agreement in New Delhi designed to pull the world's largest democracy closer to the world's last superpower and dramatically alter Asia's balance of power. With Asia's economic rise, it is widely assumed that the continent's political emergence will follow in the coming decades. By agreeing to cooperate with India on nuclear issues -- in a deal so cushy it would undermine existing international nonproliferation agreements -- the Bush administration sought to ensure New Delhi's interests would align with Washington's as geopolitical power shifts east.
"Where Nixon had used China to balance the Soviet Union, Bush was using India to balance China," Bill Emmott writes in his new book, "Rivals: How the Power Struggle between China, India and Japan will Shape Our Next Decade." "Like Nixon's move, with hindsight Bush's approach to India made perfect sense."
Still, the agreement was controversial in Washington, where Senate Democrats and Republicans alike thought it gave too much to India for little guaranteed in return. Capitals around the world worried that allowing India to maintain a nuclear weapons program outside the International Atomic Energy Agency's view would undermine nonproliferation efforts in other countries -- Iran being at the top of the list.
But for more than two years, India's Congress Party has been unable to get the agreement through its delicate ruling coalition. With elections approaching next year, and nerves strained within the coalition over rising inflation and oil prices, there is little chance that the impasse over the nuclear agreement will be breached in New Delhi this year. Which means President Bush will leave office...