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Home > 2021 > Indo-US Nuclear Deal and a Cock-and-Bull Story | Sukla Sen

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 35, New Delhi, August 14, 2021

Indo-US Nuclear Deal and a Cock-and-Bull Story | Sukla Sen

Friday 13 August 2021, by Sukla Sen


by Sukla Sen

The Deal, it may be recalled, had been clinched - at the conclusion of a (tension-filled) process stretching over more than three years, back in 2008 October [1].

Close to thirteen years have elapsed.

Now - out of the blue, a cock-and-bull story has surfaced after the lapse of short thirteen years!

In quest for a lucrative appointment?

Knowing the influence that the Left parties wielded in the United Progressive Alliance government of Dr Manmohan Singh, China perhaps [emphasis added] played on their fears about India’s tilt to the Americans. This may have been [emphasis added] the first example of China’s foray into domestic politics, but they were careful to remain behind the scenes,” he [i.e. former Indian Foreign Secretary Vjay Gokhale, in his recently published book, ’The Long Game’] further writes.

. . .

. . . (T)he Chinese appeared [emphasis added] to operate through the Left parties and the left-leaning media in India that had an ideological problem with regard to nuclear weapons, in an effort to build domestic opposition to the Indo-US deal. This might have been [emphasis added] the first instance for China to operate politically in Indian domestic politics. China is becoming more sophisticated in its manipulation of Indian interest groups,” he writes. [2]

The credit, of course, goes to the writer of this news story for transforming an uncertain, even if mischievously suggestive, may into an assertive yes.
So, not to mistake, it’s a two-stage affair.

The final bit being contributed by Roy.

Never mind.

There are, however, others - of his tribe, who are still more assertive and, apparently, even less scrupulous. [3]

Incidentally, the writer of this note himself had, in those days, been - as the lone member from India, a part of an international campaign against the Deal in-the-making, undertaken by activists, from different corners of the globe, championing global nuclear disarmament, spearheaded by Daryl Kimball [4] - a prominent face from the US.
The campaign had primarily focussed on the US Congress, and also two global multilateral forums, viz. the IAEA and the NSG.

(In order to come into force, the Deal was to clear the hurdles of the above two international bodies in addition to (whatever) domestic democratic procedures of the two countries involved.)

The patriotic Indian press - on the other side of the divide, it would be interesting to recall, had specially coined a term - "Nonproliferation Ayatollahs", to label and mar those opposing the Deal from the standpoint of nuclear disarmament/nonproliferation.
Despite valiant strivings, the campaign eventually failed.

And, quite interestingly, this same Shubhajit Roy - author of the above-referred (IE) report, had taken a telephonic interview of this writer and, then, also a few other anti-nuke friends in India.

Grotesquely distorted the words - in his subsequent report in the IE, as a part of his (and/or that of the IE) propaganda blitz in favour of the Deal.

A protest letter to the Press Council went unheeded.

Be that as it may, coming back to the main story, the Left and the BJP - both, had, then, aggressively and vociferously opposed [5].

So had the smallish anti-nuclear movement in the country - of which this writer was/is very much a part.

While the grounds for opposition of the Left and the BJP had considerable overlaps, the anti-nuclear peace movement had opposed broadly from a distinctly different standpoint - though there was some overlap with the Left.

As regards the Left, Sitaram Yechury, in the context of the current controversy, has quite accurately recalled:

Our concern of why we opposed the nuclear deal was that it undermines India’s strategic autonomy and our independent foreign policy. Civilian nuclear cooperation was only the fig leaf or a cover. What the deal was that India will be reduced as a junior partner, or a subordinate strategic and a military ally of the USA. That is not in India’s interest, according to us. So, it was of paramount concern for India’s national interest, safeguarding our strategic autonomy and our independent foreign policy. The net result of that deal conforms our stand. Not a single MW of extra nuclear power has been generated. What instead has happened is India has become, seen in the world and acting as a subordinate ally of USA and that is not in India’s interest. [6]

As regards the BJP:

The Congress—as expected— was attacked by both the Left and the Right with BJP hardening its stance on the deal. In fact, Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani categorically stated that if the BJP-led NDA came to power “we would renegotiate the deal and if that would not be possible we do not even mind cancelling it”.

. . .

However, Manmohan had intervened earlier, reacting to one of Advani’s more pointed barbs when he alleged that “the deal takes away India’s right to test and treats New Delhi as the junior partner”. [7]

To put it in a slightly different way, the main plank for opposition for both the Left and the Right was nationalism; the contention that the Deal undermines India’s strategic autonomy, i.e. India’s ability to enhance its nuclear weapons capabilities.
While the Left had added also the issue of anti-imperialism - independent foreign policy, the Right, quite expectedly, did not do likewise.

As far as the peace movement was concerned, it had opposed primarily on the ground that the Deal would hurt the prospects of global nuclear disarmament.
Not from a nationalist perspective.

The element of anti-imperialism was also taken into consideration, essentially, from that perspective.

The deal as and when, and if at all, comes through will grievously undermine the current global regime of nuclear nonproliferation, as it is meant to make a unique exception in case of India, in gross violation of the underlying principles of the NPT, and thereby also the prospects of global nuclear disarmament. The fact that Pakistan has been brusquely refused a similar deal by the US in spite of persistent clamouring and Iran is being demonstratively coerced to desist from developing its own nuclear fuel cycle technology, integral to nuclear power production allowed and encouraged under the Article IV of the NPT, further brings out graphically the abominable discriminatory nature of the deal. Moreover, the lesson that one would tend to learn is that if one can weather the initial storms of international censures after breaking the nonproliferation taboo, things would normalise in a while. One may even get rewarded in the process. This is sure to trigger off stepped-up vertical and horizontal proliferations.

Moreover, by enabling India to import fuel, natural or enriched uranium, from abroad, the deal would make it possible for India to use the indigenously produced uranium exclusively for Bombmaking. This possible escalation in its fissile material production capacity is, in all likelihood, push Pakistan further to nuclearise even at a great cost, and thereby aggravate tensions and accelerate arms race in the region with spine-chilling consequences. [8]

Also relevant:

(The Deal would) further cement the growing (unequal) strategic ties between the US and India and thereby would add momentum to the US project for unfettered global dominance and Indian craze to emerge as a global power basking in the reflected glory of the global headman. It’d just not only undermine India’s position as a founding and leading member of the NAM, it’d also pose a very serious challenge to the NAM and its objectives in terms of radically raised level of US domination on the global scene. [9]

The government of the day - threatened with collapse consequent upon its dogged insistence on going ahead and resultant withdrawal of outside support by the Left [10] could with some visible difficulty, eventually, save itself - though its honour didn’t remain intact.

There were uproarious scenes in the Lok Sabha; some BJP members rained currency notes - apparently delivered to lure some non-Congress members to cross over during voting, on the Speaker’s table [11].

The Speaker had stood solidly with the government and, as a consequence, would get, rather promptly, expelled from his parent party - the CPI(M) [12].

Even in that superheated environ, no one - just no one, had made any such allegation.
One of the reasons, apart from being visibly baseless, must have been that China itself had rather meekly submitted to the US pressure in two critical forums - IAEA and NSG, while a few others had shown some greater spine and held out for a little longer. [13]

Pakistan had, of course, opposed it all through - tooth and nail, quite fruitlessly.

That was the story then - some thirteen years back.

The BJP had been no less vicious in its opposition to the Deal as compared to the Left.
And the opposition had no China connection.

P.S.: However, Yechury’s (above-cited) claim that (n)ot a single MW of extra nuclear power has been generated is outright inaccurate.

Since the conclusion of the Deal, in Koodankulam, in Tamil Nadu, virtually at the southernmost tip of India, two nuclear reactors have been supplied, erected, and commissioned by the Russian vendor. These are the first imported nuclear reactors on Indian soil since May 18, 1974, when the first nuclear (underground) explosion had been carried out.

While the first of the two - covered under an old agreement with the then USSR, did not, in fact, require the waivers granted by the IAEA and, then, the NSG - at the initiative of and being hugely pressurised by the US, the second one would have not come up without those waivers.

Moreover, having been enabled, India has since entered into agreements with numerous countries, mainly for uranium - the fuel direly necessary for running even the pre-existing (those designated as "non-strategic") nuclear reactors on account of continuously dwindling domestic production.

[2Excerpted from: ’China tried to use Left to scuttle n-deal: Former foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale’ by Shubhajit Roy at

[6’Yechury Rubbishes Ex-Foreign Secy Gokhale’s Claim that China Tried to Use Left to Scuttle N-Deal’ at

[8Excerpted from:

That was a part of the campaign by the peace movement

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