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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 43

N-Deal : Behind the Aggression and Undue Haste

Editorial

Tuesday 16 October 2007, by SC

Even though the UPA-Left committee on the Indo-US nuclear deal continues to function and its next meeting is slated for October 22, the Left is under attack from influential segments of the media as well as prominent columnists for its incapacity to appreciate the 123 Agreement and all the subsequent exercises to translate that document into reality.

Congress President-cum-UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, in her latest speech in Haryana, uncharac-teristically branded all those opposed to the nuclear deal as “enemies of development and enemies of peace”. This instantly provoked the Left leaders to react. The Congress issued a late-night clarification, explaining that Sonia’s statement was made in the context of Haryana and was not aimed at the Left.

The October 9 meeting of the UPA-Left committee witnessed the strange spectacle of the allies of the Congress within the ruling alliance (who are sharing power with the principal constituent of the UPA in the Union Government) pleading with the Congress leaders running the UPA dispensation not to be in a tearing hurry to operationalise the deal, a point articulated many a time in various fora by the Left leaders. Finally the Congress agreed, under pressure from its partners in the coalition, to hold the next meeting of the committee on October 22 and promised not to proceed with the safeguards agreement with the IAEA before that meeting.

Now several noted commentators have taken upon themselves the task of assailing the Left for its inability to comprehend, by accident, ignorance or design, the far-reaching gains accruing to the country from the nuclear deal in national interest.

The common thread running through these observations is simple: through this deal India is being elevated to the status of a “great power” alongside heralding the end to its nuclear isolation since its first nuclear test (Pokhran-I) in 1974.

What these learned analysts have failed to answer is: at what price? That simple question has been repeatedly raised in these columns whenever the subject has been broached.

It is in this context that one needs to get a clearer idea of what this deal is all about.

...the nuclear deal is not only marginal to the country’s energy needs, it also fatally undermines Homi Bhabha’s three-stage plan based on natural uranium reactors, plutonium breeders, and thorium utilisation that will guarantee long term energy security and independence...

This deal goes against the grain of the country’s nuclear programme. With Jawaharlal Nehru’s backing, Bhabha did two things: he implemented the policy of “growing science” at home, in contrast to what all the other ministries in the government were doing—importing technology. And, he put his interlocked three-stage plan into motion, hoping to minimise the country’s exposure to the HEU (highly-enriched uranium) economy, which he apprehended the West would push to the detriment of the utilisation of thorium, which India has plenty of. Some 50 years on, Bhabha’s worst fears are coming true, and the twin programmatic thrusts are sought to be reversed by the nuclear deal with the United States...
- (“Congress has a death wish” by Bharat Karnad, The Asian Age, October 10)

Besides the fact that the 123 Agreement alongside the Hyde Act seeks to circumscribe India’s sovereign decision-making power as well as independent foreign policy, and springs from the US objective of drawing India into its strategic global chess-board as a junior partner of Washington (as has been explained in depth in the article that follows) thereby conclusively burying the policy of non-alignment that has acted as the sheet-anchor of New Delhi’s policy-perspective since the sixties, if not the fifties, the aforementioned candid analyis of what the deal would mean for our nuclear project makes it abundantly clear that one cannot accept the claims made by the executive on the beneficial effect of the deal at their face value and the substance of the contentions by the deal’s opponents can in no way be summarily dismissed as invalid as large sections of the media and several colmunists and commentators are doing. On the contrary these need to be discussed dispassionately over a length of time both in the public domain and in Parliament. That is precisely why the aggression of Sonia Gandhi and the undue haste of the Union Government from the PM downwards to implement the deal are inexplicable to say the least. One also wonders, like Bharat Karnad, if there are “some very powerful set of personal and collective motivations” behind such actions on the part of the ruling party at the Centre. If indeed such motivations exist then these should be brought out in the open since their implications could be serious for the polity as a whole.

October 10 S.C.

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