NO To The Nuke Deal ! Intensify The Movement For National Resistance Against Pro-Imperialist Betrayal !

To bite or not to bite, that was the question. And by the time the Left watchdog overcame the Hamletian dilemma and decided to act, it had already lost its teeth. Out-flanked by the SP-Congress marriage of convenience on the issue of the nuclear deal, the Left Front no longer remained the sole arbiter of the UPA Government’s fate.

But the more or less comfortable position of the UPA government soon came under clouds of uncertainty. The rift in SP was effectively abetted by BSP. Small parties and MPs whose support the government banked on kept their cards close to their chests. In the run-up to the trust vote and in anticipation of snap polls, the game of numbers began to hot up. In addition to customary horse-trading, other -- often quite novel – methods of manipulation were being worked out. The UPA offered to rename an important airport in the country to woo a leader commanding just three MPs. Another old hand, having five MPs in his kitty and bargaining with the UPA to get back his favourite berth in the cabinet, had before him the no less lucrative NDA offer of CM’s chair in his home state. Criminals lodged in jails were also brought to parliament to cast their precious votes. The final acts of the unfolding episode have already been commented on in the opening pages of this issue; but the million-dollar question remains: why did a bunch of power- hungry politicians put their own government in peril for the sake of just one deal? Why the desperation?

As the draft agreement with the IAEA puts it, the deal was necessary to meet “the twin challenges of energy security and protection of the environment”. And if we are to believe the advertisements taken out by the government of India in the national press, nuclear power is absolutely necessary basically for three reasons: it produces more energy than any other source; it is the most efficient, safe and environmentally cleanest source of energy; it becomes more important in light of rising oil prices. The substance of these claims we will examine in the pages that follow, but at least a simple fact must be noted here. The Central Electric Authority (CEA) tells us that the installed nuclear power capacity in the country as of May 31, 2008 is only 4120 MW, as compared to a total power generation capacity 144,565 MW, that is, about 2.85 percent. And according to figures provided by Anil Kakodkar, chairperson of the Department of Atomic Energy, the deal will increase India's installed energy capacity only by 2.5% by 2020. The bulk of electricity in the country, and indeed in the whole world, comes from coal.

Clearly the urgency does not lie in our growing energy needs; that counts only as the most plausible pretext. Why the haste, then?

Obviously, the basic concern was to show the US that the Manmohan Government did not balk under left pressure; that it had the guts to go ahead with the most controversial international pact even in the face of massive popular dissent and even without enjoying a majority in Parliament, i.e., without a mandate to rule. This was deemed necessary to upgrade India's credibility in the eyes of America. As for the US insistence on getting the deal done at the earliest, it flows from a combination of several factors. One is to try and add an item to the republican government’s empty success card. Another is to pump up U.S. reactor sales -- the industry has been running without any new orders for more than 30 years. But the most important reason lies in US geopolitical strategy. There is no denying that the deal makes an exception of India, granting it a more lenient regime of inspections of its nuclear power facilities by the IAEA than is normal. The basic motive in this case is to make India into Washington’s most trusted regional pawn in South Asia. As Barack Obama's declared support to the deal indicates, the US establishment is broadly behind Bush on the last two questions.

The meeting point between New Delhi and Washington came out in bold relief in a joint press conference at Hokkaido, Japan, held just after the Indian Prime Minister informed the US president about his decision to go ahead and operationalise the deal.

“I thank the President for his personal magnificent contribution to the evolution of our relationship”, said an ebullient Manmohan Singh. “… it is the intention of my government” , he added, " [and]… the will of the Indian people, particularly the thinking segments of our population, that … whether it is a question of climate change, whether it is a question of managing the global economy, India and United States must stand tall, stand shoulder to shoulder, and that's what is going to happen." Those who are opposing the nuclear deal in India are thoughtless, brainless creatures, he implied. The full spectrum support or rather submission was duly reciprocated by George W. Bush. Expressing great respect for the Indian Prime Minister, he said: "... I think it's very important that the United States continues to work with our friend to develop not only a new strategic relationship, but a relationship that addresses some of the world’s problems.”

The single message emanating from both sides was clear enough. America wants India, and India is ready to play second fiddle in the international campaigns of the latter, and coming on top of a long list of recent pacts, the nuclear deal was to be viewed as the gateway to this new, higher level of strategic partnership. The Manmohan government seeks to justify this on the thoroughly comprador logic that India can grow taller and stronger only by going deeper and deeper into American embrace in economic (including energy), diplomatic and military domains.

And this is where the people of India are dead against the deal. History knows of countless instances -- the latest one being the recent air-raid on Pakistan -- to show that the United States is a country that looks after its own interests alone in both friendship and enmity. Anchored in the US Hyde Act, the deal -- if it is allowed to materialise -- will push India's energy economy into alarming depths of dependency on the US. Informed scientific and patriotic-democratic opinion in the country has already rejected it as a charter of modern-day slavery. Some pseudo-nationalists would have us believe that our country is too big to be dominated by any other; but history tells us that size is no bar here: undivided India was even bigger when tiny England kept it in subjugation for nearly 200 years.

The other most vital plank on which the deal must be opposed concerns the utter contempt for national opinion that has characterised the government's conduct all through. Ronen Sen’s "headless chickens" comment against MPs was condoned; P Chidambaram in his convocation address at IIM Ahmedabad in March last year went on record saying, "Indian ... democracy has often paralyzed decision making ... this approach must change"; after the deal was halted in November Manmohan Singh wondered, in front of an international audience at the Fourth International Conference on Federalism, whether a "single party state" would be preferable. And now the Congress party has indeed chosen to behave as if ours were really a country under one-party rule. Add to this the paranoiac non-transparency with which the whole thing is sought to be rushed through. The text of the draft safeguards agreement negotiated with the IAEA secretariat was kept a secret from the nation, even the parliament, even the MPs who for all practical purposes formed the second tier of government, on the false ground that IAEA rules required the Indian government to treat it as a “privileged” and confidential document. All this constitutes a serious affront to democracy and we must fight it tooth and nail. Thirdly, we must resist the deal because nuclear energy is by no means a safe, viable and desirable option for meeting India's energy needs either at this juncture or in the foreseeable future.

But there is opposition and opposition. In the motley crowd of parties and politicians ranged against the deal, the credibility of the likes of the BJP and BSP needs no comment. As for the CPI(M), however much it may now fret and strut over the 'principled' withdrawal of support to the friendly government, that does not cut much ice either. Given the way the Left leaders played the pause-go-halt game all these years, many people reasonably believe that the recent decision has been taken only out of pragmatic electoral considerations. The CPI(M), they feel, could hardly afford to go to polls as an ally of a ruling party that presides over the steepest price spiral in recent history. A pretext was needed for pulling out of the second tier of the government, and that has now been found. No serious, long-term anti-imperialism is involved here, no real change of track.

The task of the Left today is not just to bring down the present pro-US dispensation and halt the passage of the currently proposed deal, but to educate the masses about the inherently and incorrigibly anti-people, pro-imperialist and treacherous character of parties like the Congress and BJP which should never be relied on again. By declaring that they are ready to reunite with the Congress after the polls if the leopard promises to change its spots, CPI and CPI(M) leaders are seriously hampering this education. The revolutionary Left cautions the people against such opportunist vacillations in the name of tactics and calls for a consistent, long-term struggle against imperialism and all its lackeys in India.


Don’t communalise the debate, please!

As the controversy rages on, there are unsavoury attempts to communalise the debate by associating the opposition to the Deal with the Muslim community. It began with the Prime Minister’s statement, at the time of opposition to Bush’s visit and India’s vote against Iran at the IAEA, that the nation’s foreign policy was being “communalised.” The PM’s implication was that opposition to India enslaving itself to US imperialism was merely to do with ‘Muslim sentiment’ – and that Muslims opposing such policies were essentially anti-national. On the other side of the fence recently, Mayawati said the nuclear deal was anti-Muslim and we heard a politburo member of CPI(M) warning Mulayam that he would lose Muslim votes for supporting the deal. Amar Singh in reply said the nuclear deal was approved by some Muslim theologians and sought to neutralise his party’s support to the deal with America by the mischievous and misleading declaration that Barack ‘Hussein’ Obama might be the next US President and even he was in favour of the Deal. In reaction to such competing communal discourse, some sections from among the minorities have responded by asking Muslims to stay away from expressing their opposition to the foreign policy pursued by the Government.

Associating the Deal with the Muslim community, whether by opponents of the Deal or by its supporters, is highly dubious tactics. Tomorrow, if BJP ever comes to power and renegotiates the Deal, all opposition to the Deal or to other pro-imperialist actions (such as, say, support to US aggression against Iran or Pakistan) will be branded as ‘Muslim appeasement’ and Muslims will be targeted as “anti-national” and accused of wanting to “hold the country’s progress back.” On the other hand, it is also misplaced and condemnable to demand the Muslims ought not to intervene on matters of national policy. We are for the fullest and outspoken participation of Muslims, as of all other citizens, in all aspects of Indian policy including foreign policy – and no one should seek to question such participation.


Nuclear Deal in Nutshell

In August 2007, India and the United States reached a bilateral agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation as envisioned in the joint statement released by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005. The deal would lift the U.S. moratorium on nuclear trade with India (which came into effect after India's first nuclear test in 1974), provide U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear energy program, and expand U.S.-Indian cooperation in energy and satellite technology.

Indian Commitments

India agrees to

• allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog group, access to its civilian nuclear program, i.e., currently fourteen of its twenty-two power reactors.

• place all future civilian thermal and breeder reactors under IAEA safeguards permanently. These will now include domestically built plants, which India did not agree so far to put under safeguards. Military facilities—and stockpiles of nuclear fuel that India has produced up to now—will be exempt from inspections or safeguards.

• sign an Additional Protocol —which allows more intrusive IAEA inspections—on its civilian facilities.

• continue its moratorium on nuclear weapons testing.

• strengthen the security of its nuclear arsenals.

• negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) with the United States banning the production of fissile material for weapons purposes.

• allow U.S. companies to build nuclear reactors in India.

Technology India would receive in return

India would be eligible to buy U.S. Light Water Reactors (LWRs) and dual-use nuclear technology, including materials and equipment that could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium (potentially creating the material for nuclear bombs). It would also receive imported fuel for its nuclear reactors and develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply.

The American noose

To quote form article 2 of the 123 agreement which constitutes the core of this deal: "… each party shall implement this agreement in accordance with its respective applicable treaties, national law regulations, and license requirements... ". Now to quote from the Hyde Act, Section 102 part 6 (a): "The country[ India]... has a foreign policy that is congruent to that of America." Thus US will act according to the Hyde Act – in this way it becomes binding on India.

Clause ‘g’ of Section 104 of the same act binds American president to report to American Congress about the activities of Indian government. The deal is thus based on the premise that our foreign policy is congruent with that of Washington and the supply of nuclear energy will depend on the certificate, which our government will have to obtain from the US Congress.

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