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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > September 15, 2007 > Demystifying the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal

Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 39

Demystifying the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal

Tuesday 18 September 2007, by Muchkund Dubey


India has developed its nuclear energy sector almost entirely by its own efforts. In the process, it has mastered the complete nuclear fuel cycle ranging from the mining of uranium, fabrication of reactors, enrichment of uranium, separation of plutonium from spent fuel to the numerous practical applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Aware of the country’s acute shortage of uranium, the pioneer of India’s nuclear programme, Dr Homi J. Bhaba, envisaged a three-stage development of India’s nuclear sector, that is, pressurised heavy water uranium-based reactors; plutonium-based fast breeder reactors; and thorium-based reactors. It was envisaged that by the time India reached the third stage, it would start using its abundant supply of thorium in its fast breeder reactors, to become completely self-reliant in the generation of nuclear energy. India’s first fast breeder reactor, under construction in Kalpakkam, is likely to become critical in 2010. India today is the leading country in the world in research in fast breeder technology.

India’s scientists have achieved all this in spite of the usually great secrecy surrounding the international trade in nuclear equipment, substances and technologies and in spite of its being shut out from this trade altogether after it exploded its first nuclear device in Pokhran in 1974. It is in this context that one should try to understand the significance of the understanding reached in the Indo-US Joint Statement of July 18, 2005, that USA and India would resume full civilian nuclear energy cooperation. This apparently brought a great sense of relief to the Indian scientists, policy makers and the industry. The follow-up actions taken since then to implement the understanding have been the separation by India in March 2006 of its nuclear facilities between those meant for civilian purpose and those for military purpose; the enactment by the US Congress in December 2006 of the Henry J.Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act (briefly known as the Hyde Act) enabling the President of United States to waive the relevant restrictive clauses of the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, in respect of exports to India; and the conclusion on August 1, 2007 of the Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of India and the Government of the United States concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, also known as 123 Agreement. Three more steps remain to be taken before the Agreement can be operationalised. These are: conclusion by India of an India-specific Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); waiver for India by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group from the restrictions that its members impose on export of nuclear material to non-members; and the approval thereafter by the US Congress of the 123 Agreement with India.

Thus the progress so far towards liberating the Indian nuclear industry from trade shackles has been reasonably satisfactory, but in one or two important respects things have not gone strictly according to the script. For example, in his statement in Parliament on July 29, 2005, the Prime Minister announced that India “shall undertake the same responsibilities and obligations” and “acquire the same benefits and advantages” as other states with advanced nuclear technology, including the United States. But whereas other states in this category have exercised complete discretion in selecting the civilian nuclear facility to be put under IAEA safeguards, which are generally perfunctory, India had to negotiate strenuously with the United States in order to finalise its separation plan. Besides, whereas other similarly placed countries have freely transferred fissile material from the civilian to the military side, India has been strictly forbidden from doing so. One can also safely assume that once the safeguards agreement with the IAEA is negotiated, it will be rigorous and meticulous as compared to the very relaxed safeguard arrangements which other countries with advanced nuclear technology have entered into.

Moreover, the July 16 Understanding and the July 29 statement of the Prime Minister in Parliament promises resumption of “full civilian energy cooperation and trade”. This is, however, belied in both the Hyde Act and 123 Agreement, which exclude, from the scope of cooperation, the supply of equipment, material and technology for enrichment, reprocessing and production of heavy water. Moreover, all dual-purpose material or technologies related to any of these processes have also been excluded from the scope of cooperation.

Three aspects of the nuclear deal deserve particular attention. These are: its contribution to India’s energy security; its strategic aspect or its implications for the development of India’s nuclear weapon programme; and its implications for Indo-US bilateral relations.

A. Energy Security

THE most important gain from the deal is the contribution it will make to building India’s energy security. With the operationalisation of the deal, the more than three decade old embargo on export of nuclear reactor and fuel and related parts and technologies will be lifted and India will be able to import these items freely from the cheapest source, This will gradually lead to a sizeable expansion in India’s capacity to generate nuclear energy. It is estimated that with this deal coming into operation, the contribution of nuclear energy to India’s total energy supply would increase from the present level of less than three per cent to 15-16 per cent in the next 25-30 years. Though even after this, India will be required to tap other sources—both conventional and non-conventional—to meet the bulk of its energy demand, a 15-16 per cent contribution to India’s energy security by nuclear energy would be still quite significant. In spite of the reservations frequently aired against reliance on nuclear energy, on the ground of uncertainty regarding the safety of nuclear installations and hazards in the disposal of the spent fuel, nuclear energy has come to be widely accepted as an environmentally clean energy option as compared to other options like coal, petroleum etc.; and a number of countries, particularly France and Japan, have come to rely heavily on it for meeting a large proportion of their energy demand. Therefore, in any scheme of building India’s energy security, the country will have to rely on the nuclear option to meet the largest possible part of its future demand for energy which is likely to grow exponentially in order to sustain and accelerate the current over nine per cent rate of growth of the economy. At the same time, it must be ensured that easier access to nuclear reactors and fuel do not result in the slackening of the country’s effort or shelving of plans to harness non-conventional energy resources, or in slowing down the effort for larger-scale exploitation and better utilisation of the country’s abundant hydro and coal energy potential.

In the nuclear field itself, the government in power must ensure that the easy access to uranium and uranium-based reactors does not adversely affect our current fast breeder research programme which has the potentiality of unlocking the door of plentiful nuclear energy supply through the thorium route. There is a real cause of anxiety on this score because there are people placed in high positions of power who are inclined to dismiss, purely on ideological grounds, any idea of self-reliance or autonomy in any sector of our national endeavour and who are also instinctively in favour of conceding increasing space to private players in most sectors of economic activity. An article written by a former head of India’s nuclear energy establishment and published a few weeks ago in a national daily hints at the possibility of rethinking and even scrapping the fast breeder alternative if the alternative of enriched uranium turns out to be a cheaper option.

The Left political parties and other right-thinking sections of the population in the country need to exercise a strict vigilance on such a possible policy shift in order to ensure that there is no reduction in or denial of funds for pursuing research in fast breeder and thorium technology, and that the government in power is not allowed in any circumstance to jettison the vision of Dr Bhaba for achieving self-reliance in nuclear energy through the thorium route.

Reprocessing to separate uranium from the spent fuel is a critical aspect of the plan to become self-reliant in nuclear energy supply. This is because we need to build a sizeable stock of plutonium for running the fast breeder reactors and eventually the thorium reactors. The 123 Agreement is quite satisfactory from this point of view. It grants consent to India “to reprocess or otherwise alter in form or content nuclear material transferred pursuant to this Agreement …”. To bring this right into effect, it has been provided in the Agreement that “India will establish a new national reprocessing facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under IAEA safeguards”. No doubt, building a new facility and bringing to this facility spent fuel from reactors located in different parts of the country, would be expensive and cumbersome. But given the understandable sensitivity of the other side and the supreme importance of reprocessing for India, this price is worth paying.

B. Strategic Implications

THE Indo-US nuclear deal no doubt implies an informal recognition by the United States of India’s position as a nuclear weapon power. The 123 Agreement as well as the Hyde Act leaves India free to pursue its weapon-related nuclear programme in the separate military segment. Article 2, paragraph 4, of the 123 Agreement states that the purpose of the Agreement is “not to affect the unsafeguarded nuclear activities of either Party”. The facilities in the unsafeguarded sector will remain outside the purview of the IAEA. The only constraint will be that India will no longer be able to transfer fissile material from the civilian to the military side. But it can out of its own efforts and without seeking outside assistance add on to the capacity on the military side.

Thus, the United States has at long last got reconciled to India’s nuclear weapon status. This is the culmination of a long drawn out effort initiated by the Vajpayee Government, following the Pokhran-II tests in 1998, to seek recognition, formal or informal, for India’s status as a nuclear weapon power.

Though the US has now got reconciled to India’s nuclear weapon programme, there is no doubt that a principal purpose of the Indo-US nuclear deal is to contain India’s nuclear weapon capability. This is sought to be achieved by the following devices:

(a) preventing transfer of raw or fissile material from the civilian to the military side;

(b) keeping surveillance, through reporting under the Hyde Act and by the IAEA, over the amount of such material transferred to the military side;

(c) India being expected, under the Hyde Act, to abide by the provisions of the Australia Group, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Wissennar Agreement, without being allowed to become a member of these groups—this would mean that India will continue to be denied access to the whole range of dual-purpose material, substances and technologies related to the manufacturing of chemical weapons (covered by the Australia Group), missiles (covered by the MTCR) and high-technology conventional weapons (covered by the Wissenaar Agreement);

(d) non-resumption of trade in material and technology for refining, reprocessing and manufacturing heavy water, is not going to make things easy for India so far as the development of its nuclear weapon programme is concerned.

The 123 Agreement has no provision preventing India from conducting tests. The international treaty prohibiting nuclear tests is the CTBT which has not been ratified by the US or India and which is yet to be operationalised. India is also not a member of the NPT which prevents non-nuclear weapon states from carrying out any activity, including tests, for acquiring nuclear weapons. Besides, today every officially recognised nuclear weapon state as well as those like India and Pakistan not so recognised, are observing voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing. Unless the international situation, particularly the relations between major powers, sharply deteriorates, it is very unlikely that there would be any breach in this moratorium in the near future. A breach by a non-recognised nuclear weapon State like Pakistan, which may compel India also to give up its voluntary moratorium, is even less likely, as they would remain under tremendous pressure of the international community to maintain the status quo. Thus India retaining its freedom to test nuclear weapons, is basically a theoretical proposition in the short and medium run.

What is the long term compulsion for India to test? There is a view, which the present author shares, that India can build its avowed minimum nuclear deterrent without further testing. Our scientists claimed after the Pokhran-II tests—a claim that has been reiterated very recently—that these tests have made available to India all the data required to design, through computer simulation, the types of nuclear weapons India needed for building its minimum deterrent. Besides, India is also free to do sub-critical tests which it has mastered. According to this view, India’s minimum deterrence should be really minimum. Its main purpose should be to deter a nuclear attack from Pakistan. India need not get involved in a nuclear arms race with China nor should it expand and improve its nuclear arsenals, in order to acquire and maintain a great power status. India would be able to acquire such a status by maintaining the dynamism of its economy and building a genuinely inclusive society rather than by getting involved in a nuclear arms race with China or the USA. In fact, the latter course of action is likely to impose such a heavy burden on the nation’s resources as to render it economically crippled and socially maimed.

The BJP generally and strategic analysts close to its point of view see nuclear weapons not just as a minimum deterrent but as a currency of power. They believe that the size and sophistication of India’s nuclear arsenal is a critical factor determining its standing in the world and its stature as a major global power. They are, therefore, in favour of India developing and deploying Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and also going in for sea-based nuclear force. Moreover, they are of the view that the size and composition of India’s minimum deterrent cannot be determined in advance and once for all; it will depend very much on what the countries in our neighbourhood, particularly Pakistan and China, would do. People belonging to this school of thought, therefore, would like India fully to retain its option to test because that is essential for developing new weapon systems and ensuring the reliability of the existing arsenal.

On the other hand, the Left parties, in the pursuit of their pacifist position, have traditionally been against the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India. And now that India has acquired these weapons, they would like them to be kept to the minimum. It is, therefore, ironical that the Left parties have placed themselves on the side of the BJP and like-minded strategic thinkers, by opposing the provisions in the Hyde Act and in the 123 Agreement designed to prevent nuclear testing by India. The argument given by the Left parties that they are opposing these provisions because they cannot accept any form of restriction on the exercise of sovereignty by India, is not at all convincing. Practically every bilateral or multilateral agreement involves the surrender of a part of sovereignty. The real issue is not whether sovereignty is being surrendered but the purpose for which it is being done. By taking a stand against any curb on testing the Left parties are aligning themselves with the BJP and its supporters, in seeking to preserve India’s sovereignty for an indefinite expansion of its nuclear power and entering into a nuclear arms race with China and even the USA.

The 123 Agreement does not prohibit nuclear testing but it can have the effect of deterring such tests by imposing a heavy price for doing so, by virtue of its provision on right to return. According to this provision, the United States has the right to demand the return of the nuclear reactors, fuel and related material and technology supplied by it in case India carries out a nuclear test or the Agreement is prematurely terminated for other reasons. The exercise of this right can severely disrupt India’s nuclear industry and, by chain reaction, the other sectors of its economy. This may prove to be a deterrent to nuclear testing. However, the 123 Agreement includes adequate provisions to ensure the continued functioning of reactors supplied by the United States even in the event of the termination and cessation of cooperation under this Agreement. There are several provisions made in the Agreement to ensure the continuity of supply of nuclear fuel in such an event. These include:

(a) the general assurance that the US will create “the necessary conditions for India to have assured and full access to fuel for its reactors”;

(b) the US will support an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the life-time of India’s reactors;

(c) the US will join India in seeking to negotiate with the IAEA, an India-specific fuel supply Agreement;

(d) if despite these arrangements a disruption in supply occurs, “the United States and India will jointly convene a group of friendly supplier countries to include countries such as Russia, France and the United Kingdom to pursue such measures as would restore fuel supply to India”.

India’s compulsion to carry out nuclear tests in the event of a threat posed to its security by nuclear tests carried out by Pakistan and China, is taken into account in the 123 Agreement by the inclusion of the provision in Article 14, paragraph 2. According to this provision, in the consultations that will be held pursuant to a decision to terminate the Agreement, the Parties will “consider carefully the circumstances that may lead to termination” and they will “take into account whether the circumstances that may lead to termination or cessation resulted from a Party’s serious concern about the changed security requirement or as a response to similar actions by other states which could impact national security”. This implies that if the termination results from India carrying out nuclear tests in response to similar tests carried out by Pakistan or China which has an impact on India’s national security, then it may not really come into effect and consequently right to call for return may not be enforced.

There are some apparent contradictions between the 123 Agreement and the Hyde Act. Two of them need to be highlighted. The 123 Agreement provides in Article 2, paragraph 4, that the purpose of the Agreement is not to affect the unsafeguarded nuclear activities of India. This means that United States would not in any manner interfere with the nuclear weapon programme activities carried out by India. On the other hand, the Hyde Act in Section 103, paragraph 5, provides that one of the policies of the United States will be to “seek to halt the increase of nuclear arsenals in South Asia and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination”. In paragraph 7 of the same Section, it is further provided that pending implementation of a multilateral moratorium on the production of fissile material, the US will “encourage India not to increase its production of fissile material at unsafeguarded nuclear facilities”. By these provisions, the Hyde Act lays down the policy for the United States to interfere in the activities being carried out in India’s unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. This is contrary to the provision quoted above of the 123 Agreement.

Secondly, whereas the 123 Agreement has multiple provisions to ensure the continuity of the supply of nuclear fuel in the event of the termination or cessation of cooperation under the Agreement, the Hyde Act in Section 103, paragraph 6, enjoins upon the US Administration to “seek to prevent the transfer to a country of nuclear equipment, materials, or technology from other participating governments in the NSG or from any other source if nuclear transfers to that country are suspended or terminated...”.

The question arises: which of the two legal instruments, that is, the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement, will prevail in the event of a dispute? Those who support the 123 Agreement have strongly asserted that India’s commitments derive only from the 123 Agreement and it is not bound by the Hyde Act. This argument is not at all convincing. As the Left parties have correctly pointed out, India is not bound by the Hyde Act, but the US Administration certainly is. Moreover, if an international agreement itself provides that its implementation will be in accordance with national laws, then certainly it will be the domestic law which will prevail in the event of a dispute. The 123 Agreement clearly provides in paragraph 1 of Article 2 that “the Agreement will be implemented in accordance with respective applicable treaties, national laws ...”. Here the Hyde Act is the applicable national law. Besides, it may also be pointed out that in adhering to several international agreements, including that on the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO, the United States has made it sure that in a dispute between its obligations under the relevant agreement and the provision of its domestic law, it is the latter which will ultimately prevail.

There are several policy-makers and analysts close to the highest centre of power, who regard the 123 Agreement as an attempt by the USA to build India’s strength as a balance against China which is a rising military power. They, therefore, believe that the United States, instead of curtailing India’s nuclear ambition, would in fact help it in bolstering it. This view seems to be totally misleading and incorrect. China is very much a part of the international security system of which the USA is the kingpin and the main purpose of which is to preserve the existing power balance in the world. The USA is, therefore, very unlikely to disturb this power balance. In fact, the US will view any attempt by India to disturb this balance as hostile to its own interest. Besides, India’s nuclear ambition pushed beyond a point, like the deployment of ICBMs or sea-based missiles, is likely to be seen by the United States as a threat to its security.

C. Implications for Indo-US Relations

THE Indo-US nuclear deal, apart from elevating the strategic relationship between the two countries to a new height, is likely to open the gateway for an all round acceleration in Indo-US relations. For one thing, the implementation of the 123 Agreement will give a big fillip to Indo-US military cooperation. There is also the likelihood of a sharp increase in US investment in India, particularly in the nuclear sector. Beyond this, the deal will make it easier for India to import dual-purpose technologies across the board, not necessarily confined to the nuclear field. Besides, enhanced mutual trust and understanding engendered by the 123 Agreement is likely to prove very useful for India to deal with its neighbours.

Unfortunately, the Left political parties have taken a very negative view of the recent improvements in Indo-US bilateral relations. They have expressed their disquiet at the way India is going about forging close military and strategic ties with the United States. These concerns seem to arise from the basic anti-American attitude of the Left parties rather than being based on a careful calculation of where our national interest lies. If one sees it in the light of national interest, then it is indispensable for India to forge close links with the United States, the only superpower in the world. Every other significant country in the world, including Russia and China, have moved in this direction. Besides, India has entered into strategic partnership with almost every significant country in the world. It will be anomalous not to do so with the United States, which is economically and militarily the most powerful country in the world.

The Left political parties have taken particular objection to India’s Defence Pact with the United States. They have alleged that through this Pact India has sought to “interlock our armed forces with those of the USA”, which “is mounting pressure on India for military contracts to purchase fighter planes, naval ships, radars and artillery”. The Left parties have also objected to the Logistical Support Agreement and the Maritime Cooperation Pact concluded, and the Joint Military Exercises envisaged under the Indo-US Defence Framework Agreement. The Left parties may object in principle to any defence cooperation with the United States though it is very difficult to find the grounds on which such an objection can be justified. But once defence cooperation takes place, it is inevitable that other things will follow, including purchase of arms, increase in the number of military exercises, logistical support in the event of a natural disaster or other emergencies and maritime cooperation. These are the warps and woof of modern defence cooperation and they are bound to figure in defence cooperation with other countries also, including Russia and China. Moreover, India is still dependent on Russia for the supply of 60 to 90 per cent of the military hardware for the Army, Navy and Air Force. That way India’s Armed Forces are interlocked with those of the USSR. For the last few decades, India has been trying to diversify its source of supply of military hardware in order to buy hardwares incorporating the most advanced technology and from the cheapest source. The end of the Cold War provided India an opportunity to diversify its source of arms supply. The conclusion of the nuclear deal with the United States has further improved the prospects in this regard. It stands to reason that India should take advantage of this opportunity. Any other country placed in India’s position will adopt the same course of action.

The Left parties are also not happy with India’s recent move to join the USA, Japan and Australia for taking joint actions in areas of common interest. In this connection they have taken particular exception to the plan of these countries to undertake common naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal in September 2007. In the present day world, almost all significant countries are taking initiatives to forge links of mutual cooperation with different groups of like-minded countries in order to minimise loss, maximise opportunities, build leverages and acquire a measure of flexibility and manoeuvrability in the conduct of foreign policy. These groupings are not in the nature of military alliances directed against third countries. Nor are they based on a common ideology. For, ideology as a basis for forging alliances was discarded by Gorbachev in the late 1980s and has not since been revived by any other major power. Present-day alliances are issue-based and motivated by perceived common interests. There is no reason why India also should not take initiatives to form or join as many groups of like-minded countries as possible for mutual cooperation. In doing so, India would only be following what our great poet Gurudev Rabindra-nath Tagore suggested in his poem Bharat Tirtha written almost a century ago.

He said:

Dibo ar nibo,
-Milabo milibo,
-Jabo na phire,
-—Yeyi Bharater Mahamanaber sagar teere.
-(We shall give and take,
-Bring nations together and mix with them,
-We shall never turn our back on anyone
-—On the shore of this ocean of great
-that is India.)

In this connection, it is worthwhile reminding our Comrades in the Left parties that Russia took the initiative of forming a grouping called the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) with the Central Asian countries which were the Republics of the Soviet Union before it disintegrated. More recently China and Russia took the lead in launching the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, of which India is an Observer. This grouping, among others, conducts joint military exercises from time to time. It conducted in August 2007 a massive joint military exercise involving all the three wings of the armed forces. China is a part of ASEAN Plus Three. It took advantage of its position in this forum to successfully thwart the Indian attempt, at the first East Asian Summit Conference in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005, to launch a Pan-Asian Regional Integration Grouping with India as its original member. Now the idea of the Asian Community would evolve in the ASEAN Plus Three forum of which India is not a member. In the light of all this, it is very difficult to understand the objection of the Left parties to India seeking closer cooperation with the USA, Japan and Australia under a quadrilateral umbrella.

It is even more difficult to understand their objection to India joining these important democratic countries in an attempt to help fledgling democracies to build and strengthen institutions of democracy. Joining this group in such an endeavour does not necessarily mean India becoming a party to the US design to bring about “regime changes” in selected countries under the pretext of restoring or fostering democracy. India can legitimately extend assistance for democracy to take firmer roots in other countries, strictly in response to requests from these countries, and within the four walls of the existing international law. As a matter of fact, the idea of rendering assistance for democratisation to the member states of the United Nations, was first put forward by the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali, in his report: Agenda for Democratisation, submitted in the early 1990s. Since then the UN has made some progress, though modest, in this direction and has created a fund under its aegis to help member countries in building democratic institutions and practices. India is a legitimate partner in this venture.

ALL this does not mean that we do not have serious problems in conducting our bilateral relations with the United States. The fact is that on several global issues, particularly those relating to the values and principles governing the world order, India has serious differences with the United States. For example, whereas India believes in a world order based on international law, the US is prone to violate these laws in pursuit of its national interest. Whereas India would like the world order to be underpinned by a democratic and dynamic multilateralism, the US has an a la carte approach to multilateralism and does not hesitate to act unilaterally whenever it suits its purpose. Whereas India, according to the UN Charter, regards the Security Council as the ultimate arbiter in all matters relating to military intervention in another country, except those in self-defence, the United States has often arrogated this right to itself and to the so-called coalition of like-minded countries.

India and the United States do not see eye to eye on some very important aspects of disarmament. Whereas India has worked for decades for, and continues to remain in favour of, complete nuclear disarmament, the United States wants to retain the legitimacy of nuclear weapons in the hands of a handful of countries. Besides, the US has been engaged for the last several decades in developing a defensive weapon system in total disregard of the security of other states. Recently, it has set about deploying a shield of anti-missile defence system in some East European countries close to the border of Russia. Russia’s countermeasures against it have the potential of triggering an unprecedented nuclear arms race with horrendous implications for the security and stability of the rest of the world. It will be immoral for India, and not in its national interest, to remain silent on this issue.

A principal objective of the United States, in striking the civilian nuclear deal with India, is to co-opt India on its side on the issue of global warming, and also to demonstrate to the world that the deal constitutes a very significant US contribution to the solution of this problem. At the international level, the US goal is to fashion, preferably outside the UN, an agreement in replacement of the Kyoto Protocol, which will impose no binding commitment on the US to cut greenhouse gas emissions and which will shift a large part of the burden to countries like India and China. The type of deal the US is working on would severely hurt India’s growth prospects. India, therefore, cannot afford to be led by the US down this garden path. India should refuse to participate in the international conference that the US is convening on this issue and should insist that any such initiative must be taken within the UN forum.

There is also a sharp divergence in the interests of the two countries on several issues figuring on the agenda of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Most of the US proposals in this Round, the latest being its effort to sweep aside the remaining non-actionable subsidies of the developing countries for manufactured goods, are targeted against countries like India.

It is difficult for any nation to conduct its bilateral relations with a stronger nation. It is all the more so with the United States. This is not only because the US is the only superpower in the world, but also because the manner in which it conducts its foreign policy. The US has neatly divided the world into two categories—those who are with it and those who are against it. There is no scope for an independent or middle position in this scheme of things. Those who are with the United States have to be so in all respects. This creates a huge problem in dealing with this country.

Besides, in the conduct of its foreign policy the US has tended to create a category of “rogue states” with which it maintains minimal or no relations, and expects countries friendly to it also to follow the same policy. Iran, with which India has reasons to have strong strategic, political, economic and cultural relations, happens to be included in the current US category of “rogue states”. Because of the US factor India has nearly lost a big deal for the supply of compressed gas by Iran, and in spite of the positive noises we hear from time to time that the Indo-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline deal is still alive and kicking, in reality the deal also seems to be as good as lost. Thus the help that the United States would render to India, under the 123 Agreement, in building India’s energy security through an expansion of its nuclear sector is going to be at the cost of India building such security through the augmentation of the supply of other sources of energy like gas and petroleum, in cooperation with countries like Iran.

In spite of these problems, India has to have a constructive and growing relationship with the United States. Indian diplomacy has enough resources and skill to be able to deal with the United States in an effective manner. In dealing with the United States, there is no reason to compromise with the basic principle of our foreign policy. We should also continue to test every issue on the touchstone of our national interest and determine our position accordingly. But will the present government be able to tread this thorny, yet the only right, path? There may be some doubts on this score because the US lobby in this country is today stronger than ever before. This consists of leading lights of business and industry, mediapersons under their control and a large section of the elite which has managed to position itself very close to the highest centre of power in the country. This lobby believes that the principles of India’s foreign policy have become outdated and must be jettisoned, that India should give up the impossible pursuit of a world order based on equity and justice and drastically lower its profile in international forums and that it should align itself in all major respects with the United States. The US then will “help” India to become a big power, as promised by Condoleezza Rice in March, 2005.

Under the influence of this lobby, there has been a continuing erosion of the basic tenets of India’s foreign policy in spite of the government’s frequent protestations to the contrary. India is no longer seen working seriously for nuclear disarmament. It has decided to keep silent on the determined effort of the United States to develop and deploy defensive weapon systems. As a matter of fact, in the Indo-US Defence Pact, India has agreed to cooperate with the United States in this sphere. India also appears to be more or less going along with the US move to bypass the UN and ignore the Kyoto Protocol in devising its own self-serving long term programme for dealing with global warming. In the Defence Pact, India has agreed to collaborate with the United States in “multinational operations” and “assist in building worldwide capacity to conduct peace- keeping operations”, without clarifying that these must be done under the aegis of the United Nations.

There is no doubt that the Indo-US nuclear deal will compound India’s problems in formulating and conducting independent foreign policy and in abiding by the fundamental principles of its foreign policy. The Left parties are correct in stating that the annual certification clauses in the Hyde Act are designed to give Washington additional leverage over New Delhi on wide strategic and foreign policy issues. The issues covered under certifications, among others, include convergence of India’s foreign policy to that of the United States, India joining US effort in isolating and applying sanctions against Iran, India cooperating with the United States for making progress towards the conclusion of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), and India conforming to the various discriminatory regimes for restricting export of dual-purpose technologies etc. Besides, each major transaction under the 123 Agreement is likely to be subject to determination by the President of the United States of its appropriateness. This will give the US Administration a continuing leverage in influencing India’s foreign policy.

The Left parties will, therefore, have to remain ever vigilant. They should mount a concerted effort to prevent the ongoing lurch in India’s foreign policy towards aligning it with that of the United States. They must also ensure that the nuclear deal is not used to give further momentum to this process. This requires a very careful analysis of the major developments in India’s foreign policy and taking a principled stand against any dilution of its basic tenets. However in doing so, the Left should not give the impression of barking up the wrong tree or seeking to micro-manage India’s foreign policy.

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