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India-US N-Deal:UPA GOVERNMENT’S TRUST-US APPEAL, by T.D. Jagadesan, 8 January 2007 Print E-mail

Events And Issues

New Delhi, 8 January 2007

India-US N-Deal


By T.D. Jagadesan

The new norm for governance? If there is no threat to our survival, it doesn’t matter what the people think about our Government. It was nowhere more apparent than in the two Houses of Parliament during the recent winter session, where member after member got up to voice his or her serious reservations about the India-US civilian nuclear deal. But instead of answering the specific issues, the Government merely turned around and said that it was going ahead with the deal, that Parliament should now wait to judge it over the bilateral 123 Agreement as and when it was ready after the negotiations that officially have still to begin, but unofficially are in an advanced stage.

It was clear to the Government even before the debate that the CPI (M) was not going to press the issue, and was quite willing to give the Government as much time as it required to complete the bilateral negotiations, even though the Hyde Act had violated every single assurance given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Parliament. The fact that there was no threat of an anti-vote in Parliament, brought out the belligerence in the Government that could barely defend the US legislation but, sought to buy approval by underlining its concerns for India.

A section of the media that always supports money spinning policy decisions and opposes pro-people measures like reservations, came out in full support, carrying editorials trashing the nuclear scientists, their new bogemen and defending the deal that carries a cash reward of US$100 billion from India. To give effect to cause, Prime Minister Singh has now had a happy conversation with the US President ostensibly to convey Indian concerns about the nuclear deal, but in reality to shake hands over the telephone and congratulate each other for a job well done.

New Delhi and Washington started to tango under the NDA Government, but have perfected the steps under the Government watched over by the Left parties.  For, everyone in Washington knows, as does Prime Minister Singh, that the nuclear deal is more than a contract for nuclear civilian energy. The agreement of July 18 that every one here is happy about, and even the Left has decided to accept for some strange reasons, carries the details.

It is part of a larger strategic goal that the conferences of the US Congress have pointed towards in their accompanying note to the Hyde Act.  It is not just a deal but a strategic deal that redefines US-India relations, with New Delhi clearly the junior partner in a larger policy initiative that makes a mockery of non-alignment.

What happened in Parliament? The Government said: Trust us, we are good guys, we will not let India down. Most of the others, even milder members like Jaya Bachchan and Rahul Bajaj, voiced apprehensions about the deal, and by the end of two days it was clear for those who were honest enough to see and hear, that the majority of members in Parliament were apprehensive about the deal and did not want the Government to proceed. But that they were not in a position to stop it, and for reasons best known to them, were not willing to force a vote at this state.

Everybody bought the “trust us” appeal, and now India will wait for the 123 Agreement that will be sold to the country as a “done deal.”  Everyone in Washington knows that everyone in Delhi appears to be denying the wording of the bilateral agreement is going to be mild and definitely not offensive, but the US part of the deal will be governed by the intrusive Hyde Act. A CPM MP pointed this out in Parliament but then went on to say that he was prepared to wait for the 123 Agreement. One really could not understand why.

There are moments in history when action is required to save the country from harm. One such moment has passed with the Opposition to the nuclear deal, with all its strategic implications for India, now only destined to get weaker and less effective.  Prime Minister Singh and the US are working together to get this agreement through, with the opposition and the media being handled with amazing expertise.

The carrot is the preferred option, although at time the whip too has paid some dividends. The only ones to withstand the tremendous pressure from this highly formidable establishment are the nuclear scientists, good men with a level of integrity that makes them impervious to both the carrot and the whip, with the result that they are being targeted by the unscrupulous supporters of the deal.

First they were dismissed as insignificant, when this did not work then attempts were made by the men at the top to win them over, and now the attack has started again when the scientists refused to compromise and insisted on having their honest say. The other day, a former diplomat attacked them on a television channel asking whether policy was now expected to be made by nuclear scientists. Who else then should influence policy dealing with India’s nuclear programme retired diplomats and compromised journalists?

This is for two reasons. One, Government today is highly insecure and avoids transparency. Two, in this case the nuclear agreement is a ‘done deal’ insofar as the two signatories are concerned, and the process now can be roughly described as “going through the motions” and managing the opposition.  The only real challenge remains at the level of the Nuclear Suppliers Group where there can be a level of unpredictability at the end of the day despite the US and Indian efforts to control all the members with assurances.

The rest is taken care of, and just has to be unfolded in a manner where Parliament restricts its intervention to nothing more than a debate and the Left continues to be persuaded that the Government is secular and democratic.  If it is true, as all the recent actions taken by the Government and its policy initiatives indicate, that there is a decided shift towards the United States, then is it not time that the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s office comes out with a declaration against India’s new foreign policy?.

Instead of allowing senior officials in Government to inform select journalists that non-alignments as a concept is dead, will it not be more honest for this Government to come out and say that it does not believe in an independent foreign policy?  And that it actually believes, as its officials keep saying off the record that alignment with the US is the preferred and only acceptable option now?

Let the Government, if it believes so avidly in the line it is pursing, stop the pathetic personal attacks and the media propaganda, but place a policy paper on the table justifying its stand.  Put it to debate in bold print, and then let the better argument win. This mean, snide manner of functioning where journalists are being manipulated with carrots and incomplete information.

In fact, it erodes and corrodes the foundation of democracy that had been built so painstakingly on political integrity, transparency and accountability. Prime Minister Singh and President Bush with their handful of advisers might have succeeded in pushing through a terrible legislation that had addressed to the US interests, but in the process India has lost as held by a school of thought.---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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