The Indo-US Nuclear Deal has become like the story of The Blind Men and an Elephant.
Let’s see how.
#1: Manmohan Singh hanging to the Tail
Thinking that this was the end of the rope for energy ambitious India, Singh decided to hold on to it. He warned others “not to miss the bus“.
Alas, he didn’t know he’ll have to cling on to it for his dear life as he had no idea of the ride that ensued. He probably hoped this was not the end of the rope for his government.
#2: Bush Administration riding on Top
Used to being a superpower, the Bush Administration thought it was on top of the situation.
With someone having read about The Dragon & The Elephant and told Bush about it, he thought he could make friends with the Elephant to fight the Dragon.
Alas, some observers thought he was trying to tame it instead of befriending it!
Having bet their money on this slow moving beast is now worrying them.
#3: Indian Right (BJP) clinging to the Ear
Looking at Bush on top, it first decided to join the ride, but the ears flip flopped, and so did the BJP. Having held onto the ears for so long, it thought everyone around would be all ears when they protested and brought down the parliament.
#4: China holding the Leg
China has been aware of this elephant for ages, and fears being trampled by it. While not openly attacking the elephant, it tries to surreptitiously overpower it. It’s afraid of striking a spear into the leg, fearing that the elephant may go berserk.
#5: Indian Left on the Trunk
The Left soon realized that it can easily arm-twist the trunk. Riding in the air for a while distanced them from ground reality, not to mention getting used to a lot of hot air.
Moral of the Story? Feel free to use the comment box!
In a contemptuous ruling, the Delhi High Court today sentenced four journalists of Mid-Day newspaper to four months in jail.
It ruled that articles and a cartoon in the newspaper accusing former Chief Justice of India, Mr. Y. K. Sabharwal, were tantamount to contempt of court and would tarnish the image of the highest court in the people’s eyes.
Former CJI Sabharwal retired in January this year, after a series of high-profile rulings in his career. In the past few months, he has been embroiled in controversy, especially related to his ruling over banning commercial establishments in residential parts of Delhi. The accusations are that this ruling benefited his son’s commercial enterprises.
Contempt of Democracy
I wish to focus on the contempt of court ruling by the Delhi High Court, which interestingly was a proceeding initiated suo moto by the Court itself.
The Midday Editor, who was also sentenced, has clarified that they have taken truth to be their defense. They are going to appeal in the Supreme Court.
What is the ‘truth defense’ in this context? The archaic Contempt of Court Act (1971) was amended in 2006 (PDF) to add contempt acts not punishable:
“The court may permit, in any proceeding for contempt of court, justification by truth as a valid defence if it is satisfied that it is in public interest and the request for invoking the said defence is bona fide.”
If the journalists believe they’re telling the truth, why shouldn’t they be allowed the truth defense? Let further inquiry and investigation determine whether the articles and allegations were false, and if so, the journalists can be proceeded against. Gagging the media in such a way is tantamount to contempt of democracy!
Not surprisingly, there is going to be media outrage over this ruling. Experts have argued in the past about how the amendment to the act itself falls short of expectations, and as such is impotent to curtail the draconian contempt powers of the judiciary. A TOI editorial, Contempt for the Pen argues on Mid-Day’s behalf. 18 eminent personalities say “We Are Equally Guilty” on Outlook.
State of the Judiciary
Financial Times from London highlighted the state of affairs in the Indian courts today:
- No. of cases pending before the Supreme Court in June 2007 is over 43,000. In 1998, there were less than 20,000.
- There are 3.7 million cases in High Courts and 25 million in lower courts.
- World Bank rated India 173rd out of 175 for contract enforcement.
- An employment termination dispute takes 20 years if fought all the way.
- It takes an average 3.9 years to enforce a contract (compared with less than 10 months in China).
With such a state of affairs, the Judiciary is showing contempt to itself, to justice, to democracy, and the nation. It better start focusing on reform and clean up its act, rather than hold freedom of expression ransom in this struggling democracy.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has gone on record in an interview with CNN to say:
“”You can never win a war against terror as long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate — poverty, disease, ignorance, et cetera.
In which world is Desmond Tutu living? There is poverty is many regions of the world from where terrorism doesn’t originate. There are many ways in which impoverished people have tackled their poverty – by immigrating to foreign shores or raising the overall economic development of their countries.
Terrorism in our age has been fueled by Osama, who is wealthy, and perpetrated by Islamists who are educated and well-to-do.
Africa is one of the poorest continents in the world – strife with poverty, disease, and ignorance. How many terrorists has it produced?
Forget the fact that terrorism needs an inordinate amount of wealth – those weapons and the educated sophistication cannot come without it – terrorism cannot thrive without an ideology behind it.
It is the fundamentalist, extremist, Islamist ideology that is fueling terrorism, not poverty. And Mr. Tutu, until leaders like you fail to recognize this, we will continue to suffer from it.
The recent debate over the proposed destruction of the Ram Sethu to build a shipping canal and the associated affidavit filed by the UPA Government, which was later withdrawn, has enraged the people of India and caused a lot of anguish and debate because of religious sentiments being hurt.
Keeping the project of destroying Ram Sethu aside, it is interesting to focus on how the people of India are responding to the Government supported affidavit (later withdrawn) by the Archeological Institute of India, which stated that: “the mythological texts of Ramayana formed an important part of ancient Indian literature, but cannot be said to be historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of the events, depicted therein.”
While political parties are obviously milking it for what it’s worth, the debate has spread among the educated intellectuals as well. Hence we have different viewpoints like The Rational Fool on one hand, who says that the affidavit is one step closer to a secular democracy, and Nita, with a Wide Angle View of India, who thinks that the government did a wrong thing in (supporting) filing of such an affidavit. The core issue being debated is: should a democratically elected government meddle with the religious sentiments of the public that elected it? And in the course of this debate, the word ‘secular’ is being used often, without anyone actually defining what it means. And that, I think, is (one of) the roots of the problem.
What is meant by a “secular democracy”?
Interestingly, such a term does not have a definition in Wikipedia. Instead, Wikipedia defines “secularism”:
Secularism is generally the assertion or belief that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief…In the extreme, it is an ideology that holds that religion has no place in public life.
In one sense, secularism may assert the freedom of religion, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. In another sense, it refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact rather than religious influence.
The country of the United States was founded on the principle of separation of the Church and the State. What was the founding principle of secular democratic India? Nehru says:
We talk about a secular India…some people think it means opposed to religion. That obviously is not correct. What it means is that it is a State which honors all faiths equally and gives them equal opportunities; India has a long history of religious tolerance…In a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built up except on the basis of secularity.
My Merriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary defines secularism as: “indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations”.
Some commentators on this topic prefer to define secularism as being neutral to religious beliefs. A review of Jeffrey Stout’s “Democracy and Tradition” interestingly expresses his opinion thus: “A secular democracy recognizes that people differ in their religious commitments; secularism, on the other hand, requires them to pretend that they don’t have those commitments.” The concept of secular democracy has even been used to propagate religious beliefs!
Thus, there is a lot of ambiguity in the concept of secularism itself. Does Nehru’s “honor” entail respect and acknowledgment? Are the dictionary definitions of the term wrong? Wikipedia’s entry epitomizes the ambiguity involved: secularism means different things to different people.
In a country with a one billion plus population founded on an ambiguous concept that is not well defined, the resulting chaos in this instance is not going to be one of a kind. This is one of the great lessons of Epistemology: if we do not define our concepts and leave them ambiguous to random interpretations, conflict ensues. The current uproar over Ram Sethu is just another epidemic of this viral root cause, that began with Nehru in India.
This image was taken, at Sagan’s suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood to the edges of our solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, when it captured this portrait of our world.
“We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you know, everyone you love, everyone you’ve ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines. Every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds…
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
- Carl Sagan, commencement address delivered May 11, 1996.
This tribute is to hope and pray on behalf of the 2996 people who were killed on that fateful day. Many more have been killed before and after, all over this pale blue dot. Just like Voyager, we also need to turn and look back at man’s history on this fragile planet. Will we learn to cherish what we’ve got, or wipe ourselves out of existence?
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There have been claims and counter-claims by many regarding whether the 123 Agreement will supersede the Hyde Act, or vice versa, in case there are differences of opinion over the deal. Here are three independent clarifications on this issue.
K. Subrahmanyam writes in The Week: The opponents and supporters harp on the Hyde Act. Supporters say the agreement does not mention the Act at all, and that its provisions are binding not on India, but only on the US. The US legislation has binding and non-binding provisions, and the US administration implements only the binding portions. The US president, in his signing statement, has made it clear that he would ignore the non-binding provisions of the Act. …
…According to Article VI of the US Constitution, as interpreted by the US Supreme Court, obligations of an international agreement supersede provisions of domestic law.
Siddharth Varadarajan clarifies in The Hindu:
“Some commentators have noted that the Indian 123 agreement does not contain a sentence found in Article 2.1 of China’s 123 agreement with the U.S., namely that “the parties recognize, with respect to the observance of this agreement, the principle of international law that provides that a party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.” Thus, it is felt the U.S. administration can always claim the Hyde Act’s restrictions trump the 123 agreement’s more generous commitments.
Though the Indian negotiators had an identical line in all their drafts and tried till the end to incorporate it in the final agreed text, the U.S. remained unyielding, claiming that Congress would shoot it down. But the Indian side did manage to push through another article, 16.4, that the agreement “shall be implemented in good faith and in accordance with the principles of international law.” The phrase “principles of international law” is a clear reference to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Article 27 of the Convention, which, as a part of customary international law, does not have to be cited to be applicable, states: “A party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.”
An article, “Tactical Hold”, in India Today (2nd Sept) states: ” On the argument of which statute takes precedence – the Hyde Act or the 123 Agreement - Government expects to come out the winner. Much of the Government’s confidence stems from the fact that there is weighty legal opinion in the US to back its assertion that the 123 Agreement, not the Hyde Act, will be the final binding agreement between the two countries.
Sean Murphy, professor of Law, George Washington University Law School, explains, “An international agreement like the 123 if approved by the Congress does take precedence over any earlier statute. So to the extent if there were any changes that the 123 Agreement brings about those would supersede the earlier Act”. Frederic L. Kirgis, Emeritus Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law and a constitutional diplomacy expert, concurs when he says, “Whatever the authorized representatives of the two countries have agreed upon would supersede any other previous agreement or any internal law of either country as a matter of international law”.
It is clear that even in terms of fine prints and legalities, we’re still safe with respect to our sovereignty, our choice not to sign the NPT, and are not bound by the restrictive clauses of the Hyde Act. More importantly, as I’ve noted before, in times of international disputes, it is not these laws that really matter, it is the diplomatic relationship.
Those who oppose a strategic relationship with the US will never like closer cooperation between the two countries – whether economic, strategic, civilian, or military. They will only end up isolating us, keeping us bogged down fighting a proxy war with China through Pakistan, and curbing our phenomenal growth.
Those who are in favor of closer Indo-US ties, and have been concerned that India should not compromise its sovereignty and freedom by succumbing to the US – be rest assured. Our negotiators have done a good job so far. They need our support, not politicized, mindless, rhetoric.
Woke alerted me to a “concern questionnaire” by the CPI(M) on the Indo-US nuclear agreement. The CPI(M) has asked for “clarification” on 9 issues. It wants answers to 9 questions, that are detailed in this article in the DNA. It is not clear if the journalist herself believes in those objections or is simply vomiting those concerns morsel-by-morsel.
To be clear what we’re talking about, the actual, full, text of the 123 agreement between India and the United States on the nuclear deal can be downloaded here (PDF). If you’re not interested in the detailed response to each of their objections, jump to the Summary. Now, let’s get to work with the CPI(M) objections!
Response to CPI(M) Objections
#1: The CPI(M) was concerned that the deal required India to pursue a foreign policy congruent to that of the US; and to secure India’s full and active participation in US efforts to sanction and contain Iran.
There is no reference to any aspect of foreign policy in the 123 agreement. The 123 agreement does not mention Iran at all. This “objection” or “concern” is the result of viewing everything through “imperialist” glasses and being completely misguided as a result. Also, see response to Opposition #2 in my Trilogy Part 3.
#2: The deal would not allow full cooperation on civilian nuclear technology, denying India a complete fuel cycle. India will continue to face an embargo on importing equipment and components related to enrichment, reprocessing and heavy water production, even when such activities are under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and for peaceful purposes. Article 5(2) in the 123 agreement makes this very clear.
Article 5(2) of the 123 agreement states (in full):
“Sensitive nuclear technology, heavy water production technology, sensitive nuclear facilities, heavy water production facilities and major critical components of such facilities may be transferred under this Agreement pursuant to an Amendment to this agreement. Transfers of dual-use items that could be used in enrichment, reprocessing or heavy-water production facilities will be subject to the Parties’ respective applicable laws, regulations, and license policies.”
Where is the embargo? Has the writer of the article actually read the 123 agreement? Instead of applauding the terrific job done by India’s negotiating team (which the whole world is surprised about), our critics are twisting interpretations to suit their pathetic objectives!
#3: Steps to be taken by India would be conditional upon and contingent on action taken by the US. It is clear from the 123 agreement itself that all restrictions are not being lifted. Embargoes are still in place, and the US President is still required to annually certify to the Congress that India is in “full compliance” with the congressionally imposed non-proliferation conditions.
There is no “embargo” in the 123 agreement. How can a requirement between the US President and the US Congress be a part of an international deal between US and India?! The 123 agreement is between the US and India. It does not, and cannot, contain any clauses regarding what the US President needs to do for the US Congress. The 123 agreement has no such requirements. It is the Hyde Act that has reporting requirements for the US President, not certification requirements.
#4: The US will not take the necessary steps to change its laws or align the NSG rules to fulfil the terms of the India-US nuclear deal. The 123 agreement does not change the requirement of the Hyde Act that the NSG exemption for India be “made by consensus” and be consistent with the rules being framed by the US. The legislation requires the administration to ensure that the NSG exemption for India is no less stringent than the US exemption.
The US cannot and is not willing to take the necessary steps to change the rules of the 45-member NSG. Why should it? It is up to India to diplomatically deal with each NSG member, many of whom are already willing to make all the exceptions in India’s favor (except China)! Observe the repeated references to the Hyde Act and attempts to blur the distinction between the Hyde Act (an internal US legislation) and the 123 agreement (a bilateral agreement).
Further, clause 5.6(a) of the 123 states: “As part of its implementation of the July 18, 2005, Joint Statement the United States is committed to seeking agreement from the US Congress to amend its domestic laws and to work with friends and allies to adjust the practices of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to create the necessary conditions for India to obtain full access to the international fuel market, including reliable, uninterrupted and continual access to fuel supplies from firms in several nations”. To further guard against any disruption of fuel supplies, the United States is prepared to take additional steps. Read about them in clause 5.6 (b).
What more can you ask for?
#5: The additional protocol referred to in the original agreement would be intrusive and not India-specific…One prerequisite to bring the deal into force is that India and the IAEA should have “concluded all legal steps required prior to signature” to enforce inspections “in perpetuity”. A second prerequisite mentioned in the 123 agreement is for India to make “substantial progress” on concluding an additional protocol with the IAEA.
Article 5.6 (c) states (in full):
“In light of the above understandings with the United States, an India-specific safeguards agreement will be negotiated between Indian and the IAEA providing for safeguards to guard against withdrawal of safeguarded nuclear material from civilian use at any time as well as providing for corrective measures that India may take to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign nuclear supplies. Taking this into account, India will place its civilian nuclear facilities under India-specific safeguards in perpetuity and negotiate an appropriate safeguards agreement to this end with the IAEA.”
Article 10.2 states (in full):
“Taking into account Article 5.6 of this Agreement, India agrees that nuclear material and equipment transferred to India by the United States of America pursuant to this Agreement and any nuclear material used in or produced through the use of nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipments or components so transferred shall be subject to safeguards in perpetuity in accordance with the India-specific Safeguards agreement between India and the IAEA and an additional protocol, when in force”.
First, the term “India-specific” is recurring in the agreement because India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. No such exceptions have been made to any nation in the history of mankind.
Second, to expect the United States, which has a binding legal agreement with the IAEA, to make exceptions to India, that would make its legal agreements with the IAEA illegal, is foolish.
Third, Concluding all legal steps required prior to signature is obviously required. What is the specific problem with that?
Fourth, as you can observe, the “inspections in perpetuity” that are referred, are only in the context of the India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which has not been negotiated or signed yet. This only goes to show that we have a long way to go before we enjoy the benefits of this deal. But to castigate this signed agreement on the basis of an as-yet-unsigned agreement, shows that the critics of this deal do not share the long term objectives, but only choose to criticize whatever we have achieved so far.
#6: India is placing its facilities in perpetuity while the US President can prevent the transfer to India of equipment, materials or technology from other participating governments in the NSG, or from any other source.
Oh, I thought the CPI(M) was opposing the deal because it would make India a subservient country to the US! I wasn’t aware that they knew we could also deal with other nations like communist Russia!
India is only placing its civilian facilities under safeguards in the 123 agreement. The US President can (and should have the right to) prevent transfer of equipment, materials, or technology. When this 123 agreement wasn’t in place, we’re still living in exactly this kind of isolation. Also see responses to Opposition 2 and 6 in Part 3.
#7: India’s fissile material stockpile will be restricted.
Talks only about the Hyde Act. India has never negotiated and has not been part of the deliberations behind the Hyde Act. See response to Opposition 2 in Part 3.
#8: The deal includes physical verification and suitable access to be provided by India to US inspectors, and not just IAEA safeguards. US end-use monitoring is reflected in the 123 agreement’s Article 12 (3). Also, the provision for US fallback safeguards in Article 10 (4) states, “If the IAEA decides that the application of IAEA safeguards is no longer possible, the supplier and recipient should consult and agree on appropriate verification measures.”
Article 12 (3) states (in full): “When execution of an agreement or contract pursuant to this Agreement between Indian and United States organizations requires exchanges of experts, the Parties shall facilitate entry of the experts to their territories and their stay therein consistent with national laws, regulations, and practices. When other cooperation pursuant to this Agreement requires visits of experts, the Parties shall facilitate entry of the experts to their territory and their stay therein consistent with national laws, regulations, and practices.”
So much for US end-use monitoring. The agreement doesn’t state any criteria for deciding when expert inspections would be ‘required’. Again, as mentioned in my response to Opposition 2 in Part 3, it is the diplomatic relationship that matters and is the key deciding factor.
Article 10 (4) states (in full): “If the IAEA decides that the application of IAEA safeguards is no longer possible, the supplier and recipient should consult and agree on appropriate verification measures.”
Observe that the article is not about US, but about IAEA. However, our critic chooses to term it as “the provision for US fallback safeguards”. Now, what is wrong with this clause in the 123 Agreement? Here, an ostracized country that has refused to sign the terms of joining the IAEA (the NPT), is agreeing that if, under some circumstances, the IAEA doesn’t approve of its safeguards, then it will consult and agree (in other words negotiate) on appropriate verification measures.
I have not touched upon this earlier, but I probably should. Nuclear proliferation is a very real concern. The possibility of nuclear weapons landing in the wrong hands is enormous. No country can afford to say it will use nuclear power without being transparent about it to some extent. Those who do – like Iran and North Korea – face economic sanctions.
#9: The military program will also be subject to monitoring by the IAEA and the US. The 123 agreement does not change that requirement in the Hyde Act.
This is complete misrepresentation, exaggeration, and disinformation. The 123 agreement does not refer to monitoring of military facilities by the IAEA at all.
Regarding the other objections with respect to the Hyde Act, see response to Opposition 2, Part 3.
It is clear from these nine objections of the CPI(M), that either they’re misinformed about the 123 agreement (a fault of the Congress government) or they’re immune to the sensitivities involved in negotiating an international agreement. Their scholarly stand of nitpicking over clauses of the 123 agreement, picking words and phrases out of context, and misrepresenting them towards irrational conclusions is just a political gimmick. It is instructive to note that the Left has not negotiated anything with any other country ever. It has only negotiated with other Indian political parties towards the objective of getting representation in the Indian parliament.
It works because hardly anyone from the Indian public questions anything like “Article X.Y(Z) restricts India’s right to…”. Remember that the Left leaders are intellectual, bookish, and scholarly. It is precisely their intellectual stance that makes them appealing even to the educated Indians. The need of the hour is to really dig into their so-called intellectuality and question them. Unfortunately however, our public will read stories and stories and articles upon articles describing each and every movement, behavior, nod, glance, and expression of a Bollywood hero being freed from prison, and spend time voting via SMS about them, rather than read the 123 and oppose the Left. That is why they wield such a power in India.
Photo Credits: The subject of this post deserved a photo of a Left leader, but I decided against (dis)gracing my blog with it!
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My recent two posts on the Indo-US Nuclear deal have been revised and expanded on The Great Indian Mutiny, as part of a Trilogy. It would be a good idea to read the first two parts before this one. Please see: 123 Trilogy: Part 1, and 123 Trilogy: Part 2.
We have examined the Indo-US deal in the political context in Part 1. We then studied it in a social context in Part 2. In this concluding Part 3, let us evaluate possible outcomes of the present imbroglio, by doing a SWOT analysis. The boundaries of this SWOT analysis are constrained by the Indian political scene - we will not consider events within the US, or IAEA/NSG, or examine other non-political aspects of the agreement.
What reasoned arguments can be used to silence the opposition?
Opposition 1: The deal will not further Left’s strategic interests (including closer cooperation with communist countries), but instead will advance closer cooperation with the US and surrender our sovereignty to the imperialist US. Further, this will be deemed to have happened without the Left being taken into confidence or it being given a chance to make their concerns matter.
Response: Not entirely true. In fact, the opposite may become true. India may end up doing the most business with Russia, possibly some with the French, and none with the US. Why? Because no US supplier will sell anything to India until we pass a Liability Protection Law. Since the Left’s support will be required to pass any law in the present Government, it can virtually stop any business and cooperation with the US by voting against it. Such a law would not matter for Russia, because Russian companies are backed by government guarantees and are immune to liability lawsuits.
Opposition 2: The Hyde Act has various restrictive clauses against India and undermines India’s sovereignty.
Response: We cannot do anything about the laws passed by another country, and we are not bound by those laws. What we can do something about and what we are bound by is the agreement or treaty that we enter into. India has signed the 123 agreement, not the Hyde Act. In cases of conflict, there are disputes over whether the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act will supersede the 123 Agreement or the other way around. There is no unanimous clear answer.
However, what really matters is that the US law does not matter much. In most cases, it is the diplomatic relationship that matters. The US is known to have bypassed and violated its own laws when required.
Opposition 3: All international treaties and agreements should be approved by Parliament before being signed by the Indian government.
Response: Good and valid point. We can take up this issue in Parliament and debate it. The current 123 agreement however, is the logical outcome of a strategic initiative by the previous opposition government (which was also prepared to sign the CTBT). It is therefore not a partisan agreement, but in harmony with the nation’s strategic interests as believed by the opposition as well.
Opposition 4: Nuclear energy is more expensive than other sources of energy like thermal, hydro, etc. Further, it will not meet a significant proportion of our energy requirements.
Response: Yes, but this is a narrow and myopic view. We need to explore all sources of energy, period.
Opposition 5: The 123 agreement does not allow India to conduct nuclear tests. If we conduct a nuclear test, our fuel supplies will be discontinued.
Response: The 123 agreement does not say anything about nuclear testing by India. If India feels nuclear testing is necessary, it retains its sovereign right to do so. But you cannot have your cake and eat it too. The scenario will not be different than it was before the 123 agreement. Rather, even if our supplies are cutoff by the US in the event of a nuclear test, the US has committed itself to help find other nations to restore our supply!
Opposition 6: The current American President may be satisfied by the reporting requirements and continue to uphold the 123 agreement. What is the guarantee that future American Presidents will do the same?
Response: There is no, and can be no guarantee. If the US were to call off the deal for whatever reasons, the worst case scenario is that we would be back into nuclear apartheid – as is the state today. (There are several other possibilities better than the worst case, even if the US were to back off in the future).
Also, conversely, if India at any point in the future, deems the 123 agreement as detrimental to its interests, we can terminate the deal with a 1-year notice. It is not binding upon subsequent Indian governments either.
There is not much public awareness in India about the Indo-US nuclear deal. In the event of early elections, the nuclear deal is not likely to be a poll issue at all. This leaves the passage of the nuclear deal vulnerable to external factors that can influence elections, like terrorist strikes, organized protests against retail chains, and so on.
The Left is not open to reasoned debate because of ideological compulsions. The strengths listed above are probably, mostly impotent. Also, the possibility of the Left compromising its stand appear remote.
This is one opportunity for India to get rid of the Left. Two separate opinion polls have showed them getting much lower number of seats if fresh elections were held. This is not an opportunity for the deal per se, but certainly opens up lots of other opportunities!
The obvious threat is that the government will buy time and freeze any progress on the deal. This will lead to a deadlock and the Left would have achieved their statist ambitions. There will be an inordinate delay on any progress towards operationalizing the deal and India will have succumbed to the arm-twisting tactics of the Left.
The other threat is that the Left can withdraw support and bring down the UPA government. If that happens, there will be no progress on the agreement. Even though two independent polls suggest that the Left will lose significantly if elections were held, they’re quite capable of committing suicide with their myopic ideological glasses blurring all clarity. Another threat is that the Congress, sensing that it can get a much larger number of seats in a fresh election, will itself dissolve the Lok Sabha.
At this time of writing, the above SWOT analysis shows that, under the present political circumstances, it is difficult for the Indian government to operationalize the 123 agreement. Our politicians are infamously irrational, and we can never tell what will happen. But it will be a matter of national shame for all of us, if India as a nation doesn’t live up to its promises. We are going to simply talk the talk and let others walk all over us.
Photo Credit: Zee News, NDTV
Please read an updated and expanded edition of this post at The Great Indian Mutiny.
Echoing the sentiments and thoughts expressed by K. Subrahmanyam as I’d written earlier about, it is now the turn of Ratan Tata to speak out about the significance of the Indo-US nuclear deal and what may be the implications if we back out. Again, in an interview with Karan Thapar, Tata says:
Calling the India-US civil nuclear deal “the best possible thing that has happened to India”, noted industrialist Ratan Tata has warned that political uncertainty caused by opposition to the pact could adversely impact the country’s growth.
“I’m very, very sorry that on various issues this is being beleaguered. I really believe that if it doesn’t happen the only people who would be happy and benefit by it not happening will be the people of Pakistan and the people of China.”
Again, echoing what I’d earlier written about how FDI will be impacted:
Tata also felt that the deal not going through would also impact the inflows of foreign direct investment. “I think it could, because I think there would be repercussions and there would be reactions.”
He’s one of India’s foremost industrialists who’s actually trying to invest capital into West Bengal. What does he think of the Left?
Tata also felt that the time had come for the Left parties to rethink their age-old strategies, given the influence they have over economic policy, reforms in labor laws and foreign investment as well as overall growth.
“Today we have to reinvent ourselves constantly. Religions reinvent themselves, the Soviet Union reinvented itself, China reinvented itself economically. The time has come when we need to re-look at ideologies, re-look at past legacy and ask ourselves is that relevant today.”
I think more and more influential Indians should speak out publicly about this issue. Industrialists, Bollywood, artists, litterateurs, historians, anyone whose voice will be heard by the Indian public.
I’m completely with Ravi Srinivasan of the Hindustan Times on this issue:
Amidst all the sound and fury of the ‘debate’ over the Indo-US nuclear deal, one section of opinion has been conspicuous by its silence: India Inc.
Which is a great pity, because corporate India has the ability and the resources to not only engage constructively in the discussion, but bring some much needed rationality and gravitas to the current babel of ideological opportunism and jingoistic posturing which is passing for ‘debate’ on this critical issue. As the principal financiers of both the political process and individual players, they also have the necessary leverage. Which they are not using.
The Left is planning a nationwide protest campaign on the streets against the nuclear deal. The people who’re going to protest are obviously going to be pawns in their political gangs, who do not understand the issue at all. It is only if famous and popular Indian personalities speak out, will the Left’s protest be neutralized.
You have to admit how clever China is! Do you want to destroy a country’s economic ambitions? Do you fear the international repercussions if you openly wage a war? Have you wondered why there is no communist Left in Pakistan, a country China heavily invests in? Welcome to the as-yet-undiscovered method of waging war: communism. Simply fund and inspire a communist group in your enemy nation, and then sit back, relax, and glee!
Photo Credit: BBC/AFP
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Update: Please read a revised and expanded edition of this post at The Great Indian Mutiny.
Exactly 60 years after independence, India stands on a precipice. If it is ready to open its arms and join the world powers, it can soar into the sky. If it acts afraid, and bows to China, it will plunge to the depths of its isolationist socialist past.
Why the Left’s Opposition?
China. There was a time when the CPI(M) blatantly stuck posters all over Kolkata stating “China’s Chairman is our Chairman!”. Many experts, like B. Raman, have conceded that “The Left’s campaign against India’s relations with the US reflects more China’s concerns and interests than those of India.”
While the Left is posturing as the supreme nationalist, Jaideep Mazumdar offers a startling summary of what they’ve really achieved and the mistakes they’ve made in the last 30 years of their governance in West Bengal:
- Banned English from high schools, colleges, and even universities -as ‘imperialist’
- Banished Computers, as they were a ‘capitalist and exploitative’ ploy
- Banished Businesses and Industry – “Tata, Birla, Go Back!”
- Promoted militant Trade Unionism
- Shunned Global Institutions – World Bank, IMF, ADB were devils
- Which is the 2nd largest city in West Bengal after Kolkata? Stumped? Because of Urban Neglect.
All the above mistakes are now being reversed without being acknowledged. These are your righteous ideologues who’re out to protect you from imperialist Uncle Sam. So, why is China behind them? Because:
While the Indo-US deal includes supply of fuel and India’s right to reprocess spent fuel, the agreement with China does not. China has had to accept bilateral inspections by US inspectors while there’s no such clause in the Indo-US deal. USA’s nuclear deal with China is linked to various external factors like China’s relations with Pakistan, its behavior in Tibet and its non-proliferation record. The Indo-US deal has no such linkages, nor does it provide any role to external agencies to oversee the separation between civilian and military reactors in India, unlike the US-China deal that forced China to allow Australia to attest its separation plan.
For a detailed analysis of the differences between China’s and India’s 123 agreements with the US, see this article in the IE.
What if India Backs Out of the Deal
Yesterday, Karan Thapar talked with K. Subrahmanyam on India Tonight (CNBC TV18). The summary and conclusions of the discussion were as follows. There would be the following consequences if India backs out of the deal now.
India will lose its credibility so badly on the world stage, that our ties with countries such as France, Germany, Russia, UK, Japan, and Australia will be affected. From trade to WTO negotiations to immigration — all aspects of diplomacy will find us in difficult positions with little to bargain for. We may be able to do little if a Haneef kind of case happens again, and we sure can expect tightening of immigration restrictions against India.
Forget 9% growth ambitions. There will be no FDI. Lack of political stability will pull out all those billions of dollars that have been pouring in the last few years. India’s isolation will have enormous economic impact.
The potential of nuclear power to supply up to 15% of our energy needs is a significant one. It can ameliorate our energy crisis substantially. By remaining in technological isolation, we will never be able to satisfy our energy requirements. This in turn, means an economic impact as well.
Strategic National Security
If this nuclear deal does not go through, India will permanently accept China as the ruling supremo in the Asian region. The deal is the backbone of a broader strategic alliance not just with the US, but with Japan, Australia, and Russia as well. The planned joint naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal are just one of the many that we will conduct with a host of other nations in the future – if we stick to the deal. Those who do not understand the strategic necessity of such a closer cooperation should familiarize themselves with the Chinese String of Pearls strategy. India will need to learn to bow before China and accept more sophisticated Pakistani infiltration in Kashmir. Today, claims that Arunachal Pradesh belongs to China are being made publicly. Imagine what can happen tomorrow, when no one in the world is going to listen to what India has to say.
Pessimism or Gravitas?
The above are not An Unquiet Mind’s opinions or conclusions. Do you think they are overly pessimistic or intentionally sensationalist? K. Subrahmanyam is not known to be either – he is India’s foremost strategic thinker, referred to as the ‘doyen of India’s strategic foreign affairs experts’. Both Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh’s governments have placed utmost trust in him. He had placed the Indo-US Joint Statement of 2005 as one of the “Five Decisions that Changed India“. Also see “The Legend that is K. Subrahmanyam“.
Such a man does not make statements lightly or sensationalize issues. We are standing on a precipice. If the Indo-US nuclear cooperation doesn’t go through, expect more brain drain, rather than the reverse. This is critically important for the future of India. We cannot afford it to be left to the Left and be left behind.
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