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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2007 > November 10, 2007 > Why the Indo-US 123 Agreement should be Firmly Opposed

Mainstream, Vol XLV No 47

Why the Indo-US 123 Agreement should be Firmly Opposed

Wednesday 14 November 2007, by Bharat Dogra


One important reason for the many confusions and contradictions in the recent debate on the India-US 123 Agreement is that these merely reflect some glaring contradictions in the wider debate on nuclear energy and atomic weapons.

• The existing arsenals of nuclear weapons on earth have the capacity to destroy most forms of life on our planet many times over. Clearly the complete elimination of these weapons from earth should get the highest priority. But at present non-proliferation efforts are mostly led by the US, which is the only country guilty of actually using nuclear weapons in Japan (and more recently weapons with depleted uranium). The USA is also the only country guilty of using completely false allegations of nuclear weapons to justify the alarmingly destructive invasion and bombing of another country (Iraq). So a US-led nuclear non-proliferation effort is like the worst robber being asked to lead a campaign against crime. The objective of non-proliferation is essentially very good and relevant, but when it is led by George Bush then it becomes very difficult for any person with any sense of justice to support it (as can be seen at present in the USA-led campaign against the alleged nuclear weapons programme of Iraq).

• Even the peaceful use of nuclear energy mainly in the form of electricity generation has been highly controversial. The environmental movement has generally argued strongly against depending on nuclear plants to meet the energy needs because of the critical problems in waste-disposal, other environmental hazards and the risk of serious accidents. This led to important decisions against acquiring new nuclear power plants by several countries like Germany. However, when the climate change issue became very prominent, the nuclear industry, supported ironically even by a few environmentalists, started lobbying by bringing in the new issue of greenhouse gas emissions, that nuclear energy should not be disapproved on environmental grounds. But this argument is accepted by only a small part of the environmental movement. Several significant questions remain about accepting nuclear energy as an important source of energy by any country.

• There is an inherent contradiction in nuclear energy as it is possible to
run a ‘peaceful’ electricity generation nuclear programme as a cover for a clandestine atomic weapons programme to a considerable extent.

These wider confusions and contradictions regarding nuclear energy and weapons are reflected almost inevitably in the more specific discussions like India-US 123 Agreement or
Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme. This is why many sincere reviews of these issues are punctuated by so many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, even when penned by analysts known for their straight-forward, clear-headed approach to complex issues.

The objective of protecting the sovereignty of developing countries is a desirable objective, just as the objectives of disarmament and preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons are desirable objectives. However, at times there can be a conflict between the two desirable objectives.

Despite all these complexities of the broad context within which the India-US 123 Agreement must be reviewed, there is absolutely no doubt that it needs to be opposed firmly. Some of the reasons are well brought-out in the Left Parties’ Statement (LPS) on the Indo-US Bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Agreement released recently, a well-crafted document that needs to be read widely. This Statement asserts that the nuclear cooperation should not be seen in isolation from the overall strategic tie-up with the US. This deal is an integral part of the July 2005 Joint Statement, which has political, economic and strategic aspects. It is also closely linked to the June 2005 Military Framework signed with the US. The bilateral agreement cannot be seen outside the context of the Hyde Act. “The bilateral nuclear agreement,” the LPS concludes, “must be seen as a crucial step to lock in India into the US global strategic designs.”

This can be traumatic for any country with a past of non-alignment and opposition to imperialism/neo-colonialism as a base of its foreign policy. India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh recently went to meet Fidel Castro and described him as one of the greatest men. Surely Dr Singh must know the well-known fact that the CIA had tried to kill this “greatest man”.

How can we forget what the USA has done to Vietnam, Iraq, Cuba and numerous other countries? What is most disturbing is that this special relationship of closeness to the USA is sought to be built at a time when the USA has entered the worst, the most arrogant (in the long run, also the most stupid and self-destructive) phase of its imperialism under George Bush.

We should clearly say a firm ‘no’ to all those agreements which tie us in a special strategic/economic relationship with the USA, particularly in the present extremely arrogant phase of US imperialism. There are very real, very well-justified apprehensions that the USA or US-backed Israel may invade/bomb Iran in the near future, and in all such situations of glaring injustice we should be in a position to firmly oppose the perpetrators of injustice and destruction without fear or favour.

It needs to be emphasised that there is no real need for Indo-US 123 Agreement. We had learnt to live with our status as a nation possessing atomic weapons. At this stage, after so many years, why do we need any special US help in this context? We have never been too dependent on nuclear energy to meet our energy needs. Several options—including less hazardous ones—are available to us.

Of course, India should strive to maintain normal friendly relations with the USA as with all other countries. But this is quite different from the close strategic alliance envisaged in the June 2005 Military Framework, the July 2005 Joint Statement or the 123 Agreement.

The adverse impacts of too close a strategic political and economic alliance will be felt not only in the political sphere but also in the economic disruption caused by cheap imports and the increasing inroads of multinational companies, particularly agribusiness companies, which can play havoc with India’s farming and food system.

As for those overtly optimistic ones who are waiting for several benefits to fall in India’s lap as a result of this “historic” agreement, they’ll do well to keep in mind what The Economist said in a recent editorial (August 4) about America’s supposed nuclear concessions to India: “They may yet trip at the remaining hurdles: in the American Congress; at the International Atomic Energy Agency; or the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.”

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