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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 43

Indo-US N-Deal: US Power Elite Gains All, India Loses Every Way

Friday 17 October 2008, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh


[(The following article was written before the passage of the bill for the nuclear deal in the US Senate. —Editor`)]

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his latest and possibly last meeting with the outgoing US President, has expressed the hope that the nuclear deal would be approved by the US Congress in a manner which will be “satisfactory” from both countries’ viewpoints. One wonders if his delusion is limitless. If he had any sense of dignity which a sovereign nation’s chief executive ought to have, he would have roundly condemned the bill introduced in the US House of Represen-tatives with harsh amendments against India—and recoiled from the deal.

So long he was duping our people by saying that the 123 Agreement was not bound by the Hyde Act. Evidently, this was his pretence. He is not so dull-witted as not to know that this was an India-specific Act. Its very name was Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Energy Cooperation Act of 2006. Hence this Act’s mandate on the US Administration for enforcing certain measures on India after it signs the 123 Agreement cannot remain inoperative. His pretence was, and even now is, that because these were not explicitly written in the 123 Agreement, India could afford to take no cognizance of the Hyde Act’s provisions.

To prevent such a pretence in any future lawsuit, the bill, as introduced in the House of Representatives, made it explicit that the 123 Agreement with India would be subject to the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the Hyde Act of 2006, and any other applicable United States law “as if the Agreement had been approved pursuant to the provisions” (of the aforesaid Acts) “for cooperation, in section 123 (b) and (d) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

A look at the major provisions of the Hyde Act is necessary to grasp its sinister significance. It laid down

(i) that in the event of nuclear testing by India, the co-operation would be terminated (of course , the US would consider if the testing was done under exceptional international circumstances);

(ii) that the termination would be accompanied by measures for getting back the equipment, the nuclear fuels, and other materials supplied by the USA;

(iii) that the US would make sure that India does not try to build fuel reserves beyond the minimum needed for operational purposes;

(iv) that the US would ensure that India does not generate plutonium, even from plants excluded from IAEA safeguards (inspection);

(v) that the US President would have to certify to the US Congress every year that India is behaving in a manner “conducive to the US interests”.

Notably, the provision mentioned in (iv) above is meant to cap India’s nuclear weapon making capacity. Effectively, it also shuts the chances of research for making thorium fissile (that is, capable for power generation). The provision mentioned in (v) above is meant to rob India not only of nuclear sovereignty but also of independence in foreign policy making, which is far more damaging. In the name of ending India’s nuclear isolation, it was meant to isolate India from most nations—particularly from the emerging alliances of peoples in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.

As if the these were not enough, the bill, introduced in the USA’s House of Representatives (incorporating amendments), laid down:

(i) that the US Government shall urge India to sign an Additional protocol with IAEA, consistent with IAEA principles, practices, and policies at the earliest date;

(ii) that in the case of any proposal from India for a subsequent arrangement for reprocessing or any alteration (of the spent fuel), the President shall keep the appropriate congressional committees fully and currently informed of any discussion or negotiation related to the subject and brief the committees each month;

(iii) that the US President would be required to certify that it would pursue efforts to ensure that any other nation that supplies reactor fuel or equipment or nuclear or non-nuclear material, subjects India to similar arrangements;

(iv) that the President shall certify that the US is pursuing a policy with the Nuclear Supplies Group, individually and collectively, to agree to further restrict the transfer of equipment and technology related to the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to India, and that the issuance of this certificate will have to be done before exchanging any diplomatic exchanges;

(v) that the President shall seek to achieve, by the earliest possible date, either within NSG or with relevant participating governments, the adoption of principles, reporting exchanges of information ….. to assure peaceful use and accounting of by product material to ensure that nothing is being diverted by India to non-peaceful purposes;


(vi) that not later than six months after the enactment of the Act, and every six months thereafter, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committee a report on efforts by the United States pursuant to subsections (a) and (b).

Every one of these amendments is an insult to India’s impeccable record and her efforts not to step out of the “minimum arsenal build-up for nuclear deterrence”. India has the right to ask: has the USA, which has the dirtiest record in building its nuclear arsenal breaching its own pledge to progressively reduce the arsenal, any right to challenge India, the only nuclear capable state which has stuck rigidly to the objective of non-proliferation?


THE world needed to expose this US hypocrisy and fling to its face the report of the independent International Commission on the Weapons of Mass Destruction, chaired by Hans Blix (the former chief of IAEA and also of the team which investigated Iran’s alleged preparations for WMDs)—among whose members was a former US Defence Secretary, William Perry. The Commission held the United States largely responsible for the current situation, wherein the urge for proliferation of nuclear weapons is spreading to more and more countries and the chances of possible terrorist acquisitions, too, are increasing. The report pointed out that the NPT treaty of 1968 obligated the US to end the arms race ‘at an early date’, and negotiate ‘in good faith’, the elimination of its nuclear arsenal. But, although the treaty was extended indefinitely in 1995, President Bill Clinton threatened “first-use of nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of US national security” in a 1997 directive. The greatest culprit is the USA.

Notably, President George Bush, too, is now threatening other nations to nuke them into submission, thus reaffirming the Commission’s conclusions. This is the direst and most direct provocation for nuclear proliferation in today’s world.

Manmohan Singh has not uttered a word of protest against the amendments introduced in the House of Representatives bill. Indications are that even if something more obnoxious emerges from the US Senate, he will find it “satisfactory” and sign the deal. Servility hath no bounds for a man deluded.

It would appear intriguing that while the US Congress is dead earnest about tying India tightly to non-proliferation, the US Administration wears a double face. In its communications to the Congressional committees it fully shares the die-hards’ hegemonic views. In its dealings with Government of India, it shows excessive zeal for strategic partnership with India.

In spite of its initial promise of full civil nuclear cooperation, it is now withholding almost everything from the Indian Establishment, ostensibly on the plea that this, too, has dual (civil and non-civil) uses. What exactly are the USA’s motives? Why did it so promptly pass the bill in the House? Why, even the die-hards who want to impose non-proliferation on others, are rushing to get the bill for 123 Agreement with India passed in the Senate, too? Why this haste?

Divergence in Democratic Behaviour

BEFORE delving into the US motivations, we need to see how valid is the claim about “engagement of the world’s two “largest democracies”. One is “super-moneybag democracy”, ruled by what Eisenhower had termed as “industrial-military complex” but which still has such rich democratic traditions as can haul up even the most powerful persons without fear, and subjects everything of importance to scrutiny by the House of Representatives and the Senate. A democracy at home, it is prone to supporting dictatorial regimes in other countries if they are amenable to US influence.

The other democracy, namely, India, bypasses Parliament on the most crucial international issues. It bypassed Parliament while entering into the WTO, a most potent instrument for pro-TNC globalization. There, too, it was Manmohan Singh who led Prime Minister Narasimha Rao—and India—up the garden path in hastily joining the WTO instead of doggedly resisting the Dunkel proposal. Possibly, Manmohan Singh Government will sign the n-deal, too, with the US in early October bypassing Parliament, breaking his earlier promise to come back to this august body to discuss the form of bill approved by the US Congress. If he does this, will the Parliament outlaw the deal? Will the Supreme Court of India suo moto declare it unconstitutional?

US Motives behind the Deal

The US Government’s motives are several-fold.

1. After having invaded Iraq on a false excuse, this government is now deep in a quagmire. After spending one trillion dollars—this is Barack Obama’s estimate, which is less than half of some non-official estimate—and losing four thousand American lives, the US does not as yet know how to wriggle out of this situation. Not only is resentment growing in the USA but some European allies also are distancing themselves from US moves. If India, once the leader of the global non-aligned movement, could be pulled away from the G-77 countries (and also from its friendly ties with Russia) and drawn into the US orbit, it would be a great gain for the US. Administration, overshadowing all losses. For the last six decades the US Power Elite had been longing for this. The US has a habit of propping up certain forces in other countries to gain some advantage and creating conflict situations. It hopes to use naïve Indian personnel to pull the chestnut out of the fire for the US.

2. Export of armaments on a huge scale to India and becoming its arms supplier number one has been the USA’s objective. Now its soaring external debts have greatly whetted this appetite. The US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has openly said that commerce with India in military hardware is priority number one in the Pentagon’s thinking.

3. For the last thirty years, the US nuclear reactor industry has remained starved of orders. After the Three-Mile Island’s nuclear mishap, the American people have not allowed any reactor to be set up. As many as 37 earlier orders had also to be cancelled due to people’s resistance. The Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine in 1986 has accentuated this sprit of resistance. But a State which wants to keep piling its nuclear arsenal needs to maintain the nuclear reactor industry. The burden has become unbearable even for the richest nation’s public treasury. Since India’s political class, led by the country’s nuclear mandarins, are desperately seeking to import uranium to improve the load factor of existing atomic power plants and is also planning to set up new nuclear reactors despite the disappointing results at home and abroad, it appeared as an excellent business opportunity to the US for bailing out its own reactor making industry at India’s cost. According to news reports, in response to the Bush Administration’s demand for preferential rights, the Government of India has assured the US Secretary of State in advance that India would purchase 10 reactors from the USA and has reserved two sites for their placement. Reportedly, some “strong letters of intent” to some commercial firms in the USA have also been given. When some American commentators, challenging presidential candidate McCain’s idea of setting up some nuclear plants are saying that nuclear energy is too extravagant even for an economy as rich as America’s, the Manamohan Singh Government, which faces a resource crunch to fight poverty, has largesses to set up twenty new nuclear reactors! None can blame America’s cupidity when there are Timons of Athens in India wishing to make India a nation of destitutes.

4. The USA is strong in its determination to disallow any but the five “nuclear-have” countries to develop nuclear muscle. Yet, India, Israel and Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons. Several others, too, are striving to possess similar capacities. Despite the American opposition, India conducted nuclear tests twice—in 1974 and 1998. Now, when India’s vainglorious nuclear overlords are going a-begging for uranium fuel, this is the opportunity to squeeze India and pin it down to actually observing NPT rules and procedures even without India becoming a formal NPT signatory.

The US Power Elite has succeeded in achieving all these four major objectives through this deal. The US is already pushing the sale of multi-purpose combat aircraft to India for Rs 45,000 crores. Besides, the USA expects India to buy at least 100 billion dollars (Rs four-and-a-half lakh crores) worth of military hardware (missiles, radars and other items) over the next ten years. The import of ten nuclear reactors with 10,000 MW power generation capacity from the USA alone will cost anything between Rs 50,000 crores and Rs 80,000 crores. Then, there will be costs of imports of other nuclear reactors from France and Russia. The setting up of a reprocessing plant will cost more than Rs 10,000 crores. Since the resulting rise in demand for uranium will raise its per-ton price in the international market, this will mean heavy bleeding of India continually. Thus, it is an unprecedented programme of depriving India’s starving millions further to bail out the richest nation’s armaments and nuclear reactor industries.

The losses to India from the deal are:

(i) the inevitable withering of rapport with the non-aligned countries of the world and isolation from the emerging alliances of nations in South Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East;

(ii) the lessening of warmth in its relationship with Russia due to India’s obvious “US fixation”,

(iii) the surrender of the doctrine of minimum nuclear deterrence build-up in a world dominated by powers piling up nuclear arsenals;

(iv) obeisance to the discriminatory NPT regime’s rules, even without being a formal NPT signatory;

(v) mute acceptance of the ban on nuclear tests imposed by a power that is armed to the teeth by nuclear weapons. (Theoretically, India can still terminate the agreement and conduct nuclear tests. But this will attract severe punitive measures emanating from the provisions of the agreement signed by it.)

(vi) launching India on further impoverishment and environmental destruction path on a scale never experienced earlier.

This author himself is opposed to nuclear testing and to nuclear build-up even as a deterrence. He gives credit to Benazir Bhutto for the realisation in her twilight years that atom bombs dropped on a neighbouring country cannot but take a heavy toll of one’s own countrymen’s lives and natural resources. Even so, he cannot bear the idea that a foreign power which itself keeps building nuclear arsenal, seeks to impose non-proliferation on others. From the viewpoint of India’s hitherto followed policy, the Government of India’s prostration is complete.

Manmohan Singh’s charmed drumbeaters can mask this unprecedented sell-out as a “great success” story. But truth has a weird way of coming out, as it certainly will.

Questions about the UPA Government’s Calculations

THE question now is: what are the motivations of the government that is now ruling India?

The Bush Administration proposed and the Manmohan Singh Government agreed to a “multi-dimensional strategic relation” but its contents or directions were never spelt out. As things are unfolding—the US side making more and more strident demands and the Indian side yielding all along—it is becoming clear that the Indian side is agreeable to abjuring its nuclear sovereignty and its foreign-policy making independence to become the USA’s de facto junior partner in a global coalition. For a country that is known for its independence of thinking and for its leading role in the world’s freedom struggles, it is a huge reversal. Then, how is this tilt, this unending stream of submissions, this tacit acceptance of primacy of military hardware over sound policies, and this “strong letter of intent” to foreign firms for nuclear reactors despite its inevitable effect of making India the poorest among the poor nations, be explained? An explanation can be that the Prime Minister is living in a dream that by becoming a junior partner of the world’s lone superpower, India can be secure from external attacks and foreign-inspired terror and may even acquire a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. He might have taken Condoleezza Rice’s idea of shoring up India’s prowess as a counterweight to China too seriously, forgetting that she is a temporary holder of power. If this dream theory is ruled out, then the only other plausible explanation is that he is being led by India’s nuclear overlords. How harmful their narrow “tunnel view” is, will be explained in detail in another article. (The author’s article “Why the Nuclear Energy Path is Suicidal”, published in this year’s Republic Day Number of Mainstream, has given a part of the explanation.)

Of course, the nuclear overlords got the support of India’s big business who feel that aligning with the USA will open up a huge export market for their products. This may turn out to be a pipedream for various reasons.


THERE is only one way to redemption. India will have to make conscious efforts to correct the tilt and put international relations on an even keel. At the same time, it will have to unleash a powerful international movement for Universal Nuclear Disarmament.

As its logical corollary, expansion of nuclear power generation has to be stopped, because it is well-nigh impossible to separate atomic power generation from nuclear weapon making and nuclear terrorism. It is pretty certain that nobody will talk of nuclear power generation two decades hence. Its potential for causing financial and energy bankruptcy and environmental disaster will increasingly come to the fore. (It causes energy bankruptcy by pre-empting the funds, which could otherwise be spent for harnessing renewable forms of energy capable of yielding hundred times as much output.)

Rajiv Gandhi had addressed the UN General Assembly, stressing the importance of Universal Nuclear Disarmament. It did not gather momentum then. Now it will, and compel all powers to dismantle nuclear weapons in the interest of their own security and survival. Maybe, it will take a couple of decades to reach the crescendo.
(September 30, 2008)

The author, who in the fifties was the Secretary of
the Economic Unit attached to the Central Committee of the undivided Communist Party of India, is one of the country’s earliest environmentalists and a social philosopher.

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