Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Indo-US Nuclear or Noclear Deal?

Is Indo-U.S. Nuclear deal fair to India? Well, I say, before the deal U.S. had zero control, intelligence and say on all of its Atomic plants. Now, atleast it has hands in at least 13 or 14 out of the however many total numbers existed including fast breeder reactors. I can't see U.S. getting nothing out of this whole deal because America's National Interest is always at the top of any deal or war or treaty. I guess, India will be able to buy nuclear fuel from U.S. or NSG now. Anyways, read and comment if you like.

N-deal unfair to India
Government confusing the issue
by S. Nihal Singh

The Indian system does not require parliamentary approval of the treaties the government of the day enters into, but the sharp divisions the Indo-US nuclear deal has caused among opinion-makers represent a danger signal for the Manmohan Singh coalition. The overarching Hyde Bill passed by the two Houses of US Congress is so patently unfair to India in the restrictions it seeks to impose and so far from the assurances given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Parliament that it scarcely deserves a second look.

Yet the arguments advanced by government spokesmen are obfuscating the issue, instead of clarifying it. First, it is important to distinguish between the highly desirable aim of building good relations with the US, the sole surviving super power, and accepting a faulty deal. India’s desire for a nuclear deal stemmed from its objective of moving out of the nuclear apartheid imposed upon it after the first test in the seventies and in particular to tap nuclear energy for a higher rate of economic growth. The country is short of the fuel needed to keep power reactors going and commission new ones. The American effort to build a closer relationship with India was a starting point.

The July 18, 2005, joint statement of President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struck what was generally viewed as a fair bargain in setting out bench marks for nuclear cooperation. This was followed in 2006 by an agreed separation plan to designate civilian nuclear plants subject to strict international inspections after some haggling.

What then transpired were a succession of intense negotiations at the official level to try to agree on the contours of a US legislation that would precede a bilateral treaty. Instead of walking away from the Bill after it emerged out of a reconciliation committee of the two Houses because it contained unacceptable provisions, New Delhi prevaricated. It advanced the specious argument that the country should wait for the bilateral 123 Agreement that has yet to be negotiated and signed. It is ridiculous to suggest that any bilateral nuclear agreement would not be within the compass of the Hyde Bill or escape US Congressional scrutiny.

Why is the Hyde formulation so offensive? Judging by the debates within and outside the US Congress, the US and India were following very divergent aims. The main American objective was how to constrain India’s weapons programme and bring the country into the non-proliferation regime. India’s energy needs were made subservient to US geo-political goals.

In the process, the Bill strikes at virtually every assurance given by the Prime Minister to his country. The whole objective is to bring India into the US orbit and bind it hand and foot to a nuclear regime that seeks to cap India’s nuclear weapons programme, make it a virtual signatory to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Washington itself has refused to sign, convert New Delhi’s voluntary commitment not to conduct future tests into a treaty commitment and keep any nuclear plants the country might obtain subject to minimal fuel supply, which would depend upon annual certifications by the US President.

In fact, the character of the Hyde effort, as it has finally emerged, is so blatantly tilted against India that the government’s attitude of pretending otherwise is jarring. It is putting logic on its head to suggest that the proposed bilateral treaty will undo the wrongs of the main legislation passed by the US Congress. Far from treating India as a nuclear weapons power in all but name, it has been specifically placed in the non-weapon category to be made subject to the intrusive Additional Protocol reserved for non-nuclear weapon powers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s determination to proceed with Indo-US nuclear cooperation must be ascribed to political reasons. Obviously, New Delhi would like to utilise the rather new American interest in coming closer to India to promote the country’s interests. The July agreement last year elevated nuclear cooperation to a high symbolic level denoting a new era in what has been a troubled relationship. The problem is that the onerous and subservient terms offered would help to create new resentments, rather than cultivate closer relations.

Although the injection of new technology and extra fuel is highly desirable, India can live with its indigenous nuclear programme if necessary. In any event, the projected share of nuclear energy in the country’s power basket is a mere few percentage points in the foreseeable future while current domestic research in thorium technology is at an interesting stage. To sacrifice the country’s autonomy in the nuclear field and become a virtual client state of the United States does not make sense.

On the domestic political plane, the Bharatiya Janata Party has opposed the nuclear deal on the basis of publicly expressed reservations of a group of nuclear scientists involved in nuclear research and development in the past. The main Left party, the CPM, has also objected to it in somewhat more ambiguous terms. The Left is, of course, very conscious of the fact that it can bring the coalition government down, perhaps to the benefit of the BJP.

The Manmohan Singh government’s more benign attitude towards nuclear cooperation with the United States perhaps also stems from America’s publicly expressed desire to make India a major power in the 21st century. This flies in the face of reality because no outside power can make another country great. It is true that for the first time since Indian independence there is a realistic chance of working in tandem with Washington to secure national goals. But the answer surely does not lie in becoming a client state.

In short, India’s problem then boils down to deciding when to walk away from a proposed unequal deal. The longer the government prevaricates while trying to build support at home, the more painful the ultimate decision will be. Apart from the time and energy the Bush administration has expended on the deal, it has formed the leitmotif of the Prime Minister’s interactions with world leaders, including, most recently, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Besides, India is compromising itself further in negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency. America has decreed that New Delhi must take its negotiations with the IAEA to a conclusion just short of signing before it will give its stamp of approval.

The sooner the Manmohan Singh government realises that the nuclear deal is not worth the candle, the better it will be for placing relations with the United States on an even keel. Subservience does not pay.


Blogger deep said...

This is an extremely paranoid article that completely misses the point. This deal is fantastic as far as India is concerned. India gets materials, help and know how for its civilian nuclear programs, something India desperately needs if it is to keep up with its surging energy demands. In addition, all of the military nuclear plants are outside the scope of this deal, something Manmohan Singh demanded from the US, which means India can continue to clandestinely develop its military nukes with no supervision whatsoever.

Of course America gets something - most obviously it is closer relations with India, a natural (because it is a secular pluralistic democracy) counter weight to the emerging China, and of course, gets improved access to India's increasingly large market. The only one who loses in this deal is the world, since the cornerstone of preventing nuclear proliferation, the nuclear non proliferation treaty, is rendered virtually worthless. I'm not sure that matters though, since India was moving forward anyway with its programs, and at least now the shoddy handling of nuclear materials can more stringently be regulated by a virtually non-corruptible international body.

10:13 AM, December 19, 2006  

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