It’s official. You cannot call the honorable members of the House opposing the 123 agreement “headless chickens“. Or ballless cocks for that matter. Cause if you do, prepare for collective clucking sounds, bedlam and hearty flinging of verbal excreta to an extent that would make a chicken farm look clean and orderly in comparison.
As China opens 31 nuclear power reactors making the same concessions to foreign powers that their page-boys in India are frothing about, the divided loyalties of “General Tso’s chickens” has been exposed (if at all there was any doubt about the loyalty of a political party that split on the issue of whether to support China or Russia when India was at war with China) once again. As was evident in Sitaram Yechury’s bumbling interview with Karan Thapar and in statements by other luminaries, the Left’s objection to the nuclear deal has less to do with the deal itself and more to do with its idealogical opposition to strong Indo-US ties, ties which the red-thonged “mother ship” and its subservient “green” vassal state feel more than a bit queasy about. (As an aside, it’s almost Gunda-esque comical to hear the most stringent voices against the Indian nuclear program, the Karats and the Yechuries wax eloquent on national security)
However there is nothing to be surprised about the Left’s stance. Spreading misinformation to the masses (In reply to a question, Mr Basu said the Left parties would go to the people with a campaign against the nuclear agreement, exhorting them that it would put the country’s several internal policies under the US dictat. “We shall make people understand that not only the country’s foreign policy, but also other internal policies, including those regarding agriculture and education, will also be dictated by the US and how this will affect their livelihood,” he said [From here].) and paralyzing the government on every major policy decision, their latest initiative to plunge the country into another general election and destabilize it seems but a logical consequence of their agenda. The fact that their allies in this adventure include Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party, which relies on radical Muslims and SIMI activists for its support-base, is also nothing to be surprised about—for them ties with Iran and the pan-Islamic brotherhood has primacy over India’s national interest.
Of course what has been surprising, and it perhaps shouldn’t have been so, is the BJP’s making common cause with the Left, no doubt motivated by political opportunism, when what the 123 deal represents is nothing but the logical consequence of their policy of going nuclear. In his articles in the Indian Express, Arun Shourie (the most erudite ideologue the Right has in India) expresses his opposition to the bill based primarily on a difference in wording between the 123 Agreement which the US has with China and India.
To gauge the difference, contrast the provision in the 123 Agreement that the US signed with China in 1985. Article 2(1) of that Agreement specifies: ‘Each party shall implement this Agreement in accordance with its respective applicable treaties, national laws, regulations and license requirements concerning the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes’ — so far, almost the same as the Indo-US text. But then comes the vital sentence which is missing from the Indo-US agreement: ‘The parties recognise, 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.’
The omission of this line, Arun Shourie argues, means that the US has left open the possibility of unilateral action (i.e. ask for a return of US supplied material in case it deems India to be non-compliant with the treaty). However I fail to understand why India, based on the same principle, also cannot pass its own law and say that it is not bound to return nuclear material obtained. [Now one can argue that the balance of power would always guarantee the primacy of US regulations over Indian domestic laws—-but that stands no matter how you word the deal; the US can always take the upper hand because it can.]
There is no doubt that the 123 Agreement isn’t everything that India has asked for. One would have to be naive to even think that it would—-after all the US is not entering this agreement out of altruism or to make the world a better place but to open up a market for its nuclear infrastructure companies, to send a signal or two to China and to take India out of the Iran camp.
If the overwhelming din in India is about how it has surrendered its sovereignty to the US, in America whatever media attention the treaty garnered has been focussed on how the US has abjectly surrendered to India, handing an unprecedented deal of almost total advantage to it. [Lou Dobbs, the borderline racist, anti-India blowhard on CNN called it “high nuclear technology” gotten in exchange of mangoes] .Pakistan has been repeatedly hankering for a similar deal from the US, with China supporting the claim. There are arguments claiming that the 123 Agreement with India is as (if not less) stringent than the one the US has with China. (in contrast to what Arun Shourie says)
What this means is that the nuclear deal isn’t as bad as we are being made to believe. Like most foreign treaties, it is a strategic compromise with each side complaining that the other holds the upper hand, as opposed to the “abject surrender” opponents on both sides of the Atlantic would like people to believe.
However what is important to consider at the end of the day, rather than a “may” here and a “open to negotiations” there, are the wider ramifications of this treaty with the US.
It provides a one-time opportunity, brokered by the most pro-Indian US government in recent times, to remove the NPT stick that successive US governments have beaten us to death with and one, make no mistake, a future American president (a Democrat based on current indications) will use with gusto—even more so if the President is a certain Senator Barrack OBama. Not that I am an expert on foreign affairs, but I would say that this is possibly the best deal that Indian can hope for from the US for many years to come. Most importantly, it opens up the door for further military cooperation with the United States and sends an unambiguous message of intent to the China-Pakistan axis, which one should consider to be the clearest and most present danger to the national interest.
Unless of course one is a Politburo member.
[PS: Let me conclude with a statement of the original US-baiter, conjectured by some to be the “coffin”chor neta foresawn by Kanti Shah in “Gunda”, George Fernandes.
Accusing the PM of “betraying” the country by going ahead with the nuclear deal, NDA convener George Fernandes on Thursday said: “If it were China, they would have settled it with one bullet in his head.”
Actually no George. If this was China, it would be you who would have had one bullet in your head for saying that the head of state has “betrayed” his country.]