Indo-US Nuclear Deal:

CPI(M) Joins Congress to Script a Spurious "Sense of the House"

ON AUGUST 15, 2006 India 'celebrated' the fifty-ninth anniversary of her independence from British colonial rule in the shadow of a terror alert issued by the US . Britain had just claimed to have foiled a major terror plot and only last month Mumbai had experienced the real trauma of serial blasts that killed more than 200 passengers and maimed many others. Panic and paranoia therefore reigned supreme and everybody seemed to heave a sigh of relief when the day finally ended without any major untoward incident reported from any corner. What an irony of history! Much of the terrorism that India and the whole world today have to live with is an offshoot of US strategy and policy of global domination. Indeed, most terrorist outfits have historically benefited from American funding, training and strategic patronage. And now we are seeing terror alerts issued by the US throwing countries out of gear in sheer panic!

There was another alert issued on the eve of this year's Independence Day. This one came from eight of India 's eminent nuclear scientists and administrators, including several formal chairmen of Atomic Energy Commission. In an open appeal to Members of Parliament, these scientists observed that "the Indo-US deal, in the form approved by the US House of Representatives, infringes on our independence for carrying out indigenous research and development in nuclear science and technology." Asserting that "Research and technology development are the sovereign rights of any nation" and that "this is especially true when they concern strategic national defence and energy self-sufficiency", they appealed to the Parliamentarians "to discuss this deal and ... ensure that decisions taken today do not inhibit our future ability to develop and pursue nuclear technologies for the benefit of the nation."

The concerns expressed by the nuclear scientists only reflected some of the apprehensions and objections already raised by informed democratic opinion since the Indo-US nuclear deal was first mentioned in the course of Manmohan Singh's US visit in July 2005 and the joint statement of 18 July 2005. George Bush's visit to India in March obviously refuelled these apprehensions, and more recently, the stringent additional clauses recommended by the US House of Representatives while endorsing the deal understandably caused serious ripples of public debate and resentment in India . Concerns were expressed about the US shifting the goalpost and demands were raised for a parliamentary debate and for adoption of a resolution that would adequately convey the "sense of the House". On August 18, Manmohan Singh just delivered an emotionally charged 80-minute speech at the Rajya Sabha and we are now told by our friends in the Left that the assurances given by the PM have been as good as any resolution reflecting the "sense of the House". Really? How wonderful!

What did Manmohan Singh really have to say? He drew a parallel between the economic reforms he had initiated as Finance Minister in 1991 and the paradigm shift in strategic thinking that is currently taking place under his stewardship as Prime Minister. Quoting from The Prince , the famous work of Machiavelly on the principles of politics and governance, he said he had "enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit from the new order." Recalling the 'epithets' he attracted when he initiated economic reforms, he said he stood vindicated by subsequent experience and said he shuddered to think how India would have faced the East Asian currency crisis of the mid 1990s without those reforms! Those who go on describing Manmohan Singh as a weak politician should really rethink - in the name of allaying the country's "nuclear fears" he claims vindication for his economic record with the entire Left brigade led by Comrade Sitaram Yechury nodding in silent approval!

Well, the truth is if India managed to escape the heat of the East Asian financial meltdown it was because India had not completed the process of financial liberalisation and still exercised some restrictions vis-a-vis the world of speculative finance. In other words, India managed to survive in spite of Singh's economic reforms and not because of them! And now he expects the country to trust him in the matter of the Indo-US nuclear deal and strategic partnership on the basis of his 'credentials' as the initiator of India 's economic reforms! And what 'assurances' did he really give regarding the nuclear deal except insisting that India's foreign policy "will not change as long as I am Prime Minister" and that "we will not accept any conditions that go beyond the parameters of the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement and the March 2, 2006 Separation Plan, agreed to between India and the United States" (emphasis ours)? So, within the parameters of the July 18 statement and March 2 plan, further conditions could always be considered and accepted in India 's "enlightened national interest"!

The essential criticism against the Indo-US nuclear deal, not just in its current form as proposed by the US House of Representatives but from day one, has emanated from four basic concerns which can be formulated in the following words: (1) The deal will seriously compromise India's strategic autonomy; (2) it will promote nuclear weaponsiation and trigger a thoroughly dangerous and disastrous nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan; (3) it will jeopardise India's energy independence and security strengthen by tightening American stranglehold over India's energy economy; and (4) it will push India deeper into an unequal strategic partnership with the US with serious all-round implications for India's foreign policy as well as internal policies. Since July 18, 2005, these concerns have only become more acute for more and more people. Manmohan Singh was surely not expected to address any of these basic concerns, he could only reiterate the 'spirit' of the July 18, 2005 statement and he did exactly that. But how come for the CPI(M) the parameters of the July 18 statement have now become synonymous with the "sense of the House"!

Before we conclude, let us draw our readers' attention to the following excerpts from an article published not so long ago: " India has become a strategic ally of the United States . ... Embedded in this strategic alliance is the US nuclear cooperation deal which was first mooted in the July 18 statement. .. The UPA government has by this strategic alliance with the United States eroded India 's independent foreign policy and severely restricted its strategic autonomy . This is evident from the nature of the strategic compact arrived at which has political, economic, military and strategic elements involved. ... Starting from the July 2005 joint statement, the CPI(M) and the Left have come out against the strategic alliance with the United States . It has conducted a countrywide campaign against the UPA government's reversal on the Iran nuclear issue. The whole country has witnessed a powerful protest movement against the visit of President Bush. The CPI(M) will work more determinedly to fight back the growing US influence on the country, mobilise the people for an independent foreign policy and resist the conversion of India into a “reliable ally” of the United States . (emphasis in the original)" This was Prakash Karat writing in the People's Democracy (March 12, 2006) just after the Bush visit.

So in March 2006, the July 2005 statement symbolised a strategic alliance which eroded India 's independent foreign policy and severely restricted India 's strategic autonomy. And in August 2006, the PM reflects the "sense of the House" - in which the CPI(M) has its biggest ever presence till date - by just upholding the same July 2005 statement! Does not the "sense of the House" have anything to do with the sense of the people you are supposedly mobilising for an independent foreign policy and against the Indo-US strategic alliance? Or are you now going to mobilise the people with this new-found "sense of the House"? Who are really shifting the goalpost, comrade?