Thursday, September 04, 2008

PM misled India on nuclear deal

Do it my way... you are either with us or against us!
The PM stands diminished
As Thursday’s meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna concluded without a ‘consensus’ on accepting the redrafted American proposal for waiving the rules that prohibit trade in nuclear technology and fuel with India, Mr William Burns, the US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, whose services have been requisitioned by Washington to convince recalcitrant countries that wisdom lies in enabling the formal conclusion of the 123 Agreement, put a risible spin on continuing objections voiced by Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. “I believe we are making steady progress in this process and we will continue to make progress,” he told mediapersons, among them gullible journalists representing Indian newspapers and television channels.
It is anybody’s guess as to whether the nay-sayers in the NSG will eventually accept the revised US draft and settle for the considerable concessions that have been made to appease non-proliferation hawks and curtail India’s sovereign right to decide its nuclear policy, including its strategic deterrence component. Indeed, it would be a folly to under-estimate America’s persuasive powers which are not necessarily linked to over-the-board, across-the-table diplomacy.
Look at the way it has managed to foist on us a so-called ‘civilian nuclear cooperation agreement’ that will revive the moribund American nuclear power industry, create thousands of jobs (which will not be open to holders of H1B visa, so there’s little reason for our middle-class to cheer the deal), give President George W Bush his only foreign policy ‘success’, and serve the purpose of forcing India into the non-proliferation regime without conceding its nuclear weapons capability. A full 10 years after being caught unawares as India conducted a series of five nuclear tests on May 11 and 13, 1998, the US is about to extract sweet revenge, if not retribution, for that act of stupendous defiance.
It would, however, be unfair to blame the US alone for India’s straitjacketing in so crafty and sly a manner. Governments are meant to protect their national self-interest and further their national agenda: There is little or no space for morality and ethics in international affairs; ruthless geopolitics does not countenance timidity although the powerful nations are not averse to doing business with obsequious regimes because they can ride roughshod over them.
If the US has succeeded in imposing upon us what Americans call a ‘bum deal’ or selling us what used car dealers in that country refer to as a ‘lemon’, it is because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has willingly accepted it. In the process, he has not only compromised India’s strategic interests but also wilfully misled a billion people. Not given to niceties, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has been less circumspect with his choice of words while accusing Mr Singh of “cheating” and “lying” over the nuclear deal.
Nothing illustrates this point better than the Prime Minister’s suppression of the real facts and full implications of the India-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, which have now been revealed with Mr Howard L Berman, chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, making public the ‘confidential’ letter that had been sent by the Bush Administration to his predecessor, the late Tom Lantos, on January 16, 2008. It explains in detail American ‘commitments’ and Indian ‘concessions’ while arguing the case for the 123 Agreement. It also exposes the gulf that separates the various ‘commitments’ made by the Prime Minister in Parliament from the facts as perceived by the Americans. In brief, it proves that Mr Singh has been economical with the truth.
The drumbeaters of the Government have responded predictably, seeking to put a spin — no less risible than that of Mr Burns’ — on the disclosure and thus obfuscate its real meaning: That the Prime Minister did not tell all while presenting the deal as a ‘boon’ for India. The same arguments have been reiterated: “It is an internal document of the US Administration”; “We are guided by the 123 Agreement”; “There’s nothing new about the conditions”; and, “We cannot go beyond our commitment to Parliament, commitment made by the Prime Minister and commitment made by ourselves”. The last refers to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s robust defence of the nuclear deal on All India Radio. It is another matter that Mr Mukherjee’s assurances have proved to be false in the past; there is no reason why he should be taken seriously now.
Little purpose will be served by repeating all the points on which Mr Singh has misled the nation even if space were to permit such listing. The salient points would suffice to demonstrate that the apprehensions of those who have been steadfastly opposed to the deal because of its flaws are not unfounded. For instance, the letter makes it abundantly clear that the US has not given any legally binding nuclear fuel-supply assurance to India, only “presidential commitments” subject to American law. Now contrast this with what Mr Singh said in the Lok Sabha on August 13, 2007. He stressed on “detailed fuel supply assurances” by the US for “the uninterrupted operation of our nuclear reactors”. Mr Singh cannot claim ignorance of the American perception or understanding of the 123 Agreement because the letter clearly says, “We believe the Indian Government shares our understanding of this provision.”
Recall also how the Prime Minister assured the Lok Sabha the same day that “this Agreement envisages, in consonance with the Separation Plan, US support for an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply for the lifetime of India’s reactors”. This is totally at variance with the Bush Administration’s communication to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which says India will not be allowed to stockpile such nuclear fuel stocks as to undercut American leverage to re-impose sanctions. To drive home this point, it says the 123 Agreement is not inconsistent with the Hyde Act’s stipulation — the little-known ‘Barack Obama Amendment’ — that the supply of nuclear fuel should be “commensurate with reasonable operating requirements”. The ‘strategic reserve’ that is crucial to India’s nuclear programme is, therefore, a non-starter.
Last, but not least, recall the Prime Minister’s declaration in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008: “I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing.” And what does the Bush Administration’s letter say? “As outlined in Article 14 of the 123 Agreement, should India detonate a nuclear-explosive device, the United States has the right to cease all nuclear cooperation with India immediately, including the supply of fuel, as well as request the return of any items transferred from the United States, including fresh fuel.”
The India-US nuclear deal is no longer only about how it compromises India’s sovereign rights and strategic interests. It is also about the integrity of those who have facilitated its imposition on India. Regrettably, the Prime Minister stands diminished with a questionable integrity quotient.

The Pioneer / Edit Page main article / September 5, 2008

No comments: