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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 29

Congress should Concentrate on Important Tasks and Stop Pursuing the Nuclear Deal

Friday 11 July 2008, by Bharat Dogra

In the middle of all the heated debate on the Indo-US nuclear deal a very simple question needs to be asked—did the Congress party get the votes of the people on the basis of such a nuclear deal, or on the basis of promises of social and economic justice included in the Common Minimum Programme?

The answer clearly is that it is on the basis of a programme of social and economic justice that the Congress got the mandate of the people. The nuclear deal did not even exist as an issue at the time of the last elections. As the UPA Government has so far fulfilled only a small part of its programme of social and economic justice, it should concentrate on fulfilling its election promises instead of spending most of its energy on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Although the UPA Government has taken some steps in the direction of socio-economic justice (such as the NREGA and forest-rights laws), these have not been strengthened yet. A lot of work needs to be still done to implement these in the proper spirit. Social security for countless millions still remains a dream. A comprehensive legislation on this issue and its proper implementation is still awaited. The loan-waiver scheme will need a lot of follow-up work to ensure that farmers and farm-workers have a sense of justice being done. Very careful efforts need to be made to control inflation, or else even the limited gains made so far on behalf of the poor will be squandered. The interests of the farmers and workers need to be protected very clearly at the WTO where the Doha Round is in a crucial stage.

These should be the real priorities of the UPA Government at this stage. But instead of attending to the real task, it is squandering its energies on pursuing the nuclear deal, even at the cost of endangering the survival of the government. Early elections resulting from the fall of the government will not be in the interests of the country as important steps to check inflation, to protect our interests at WTO etc. are needed.

This is not the place to go into the details of the nuclear deal, but at least two basic points can be made. Firstly, if India has to meet its energy requirements in a safe, environmentally protective and self-reliant way, then nuclear energy should at best have a limited and small role in this. The quest for self-reliance in energy is a very important, very creative and very exciting quest, where many options will have to be tried and explored. All the facts available so far indicate that while the nuclear option should be certainly retained like all other options, it deserves only a small and limited role.

Secondly, it will be good neither for India nor for world peace, if India is identified too closely with the strategic interests and foreign policy of the USA. The best option for India—which is also in keeping with the interests of world peace—is to have a very independent foreign policy based on its own national interests as well as peace, stability and justice in the world and protection of environment.

No one has yet explained satisfactorily how in the middle of so many important tasks and genuine concerns, the nuclear deal suddenly appeared from nowhere and in a short time become the single most important concern of the government.

In the interests of the goals of socio-economic justice and secularism, it is important that good relationships should continue to exist between the Congress and Left parties. This relationship too is being jeopardised by the insistence of the Congress in pursuing the nuclear deal.

Keeping in view all these factors, the right course of action for the Congress should be as follows:

1. The UPA Government should strive to complete its five years.
2. The remaining period should be most energetically devoted to socio-economic justice.

3. Give very close attention to sensitive and important issues like controlling inflation, protecting the interests of India at the WTO and maintaining national unity in difficult conditions.

4. The obstinate pursuit of the nuclear deal should be given up.

5. Relations with the Left parties should be improved.

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