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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 40

Report of a Conference on Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Wednesday 26 September 2007

A Conference was held on September 13, 2007 in New Delhi at the initiative of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh on the theme of “Indo-US Nuclear Deal: Implications for Democracy and Sovereignty”. Besides V.P. Singh those who spoke at the meet included Dr A. Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulation Board; A. B. Bardhan, General Secretary of the CPI; Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the CPI-M; RSP leader Abani Roy; Forward Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas; Dr Meher Engineer, former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata.

The Conference deliberated on the theme in three sessions.

The first session discussed the unprecedented confrontation between the PM and the majority in Parliament and its implications for the spirit and norms of democratic policy as well as its future. The issues of powers of the executive, the sovereign legislative authority of Parliament and the measures necessary to redress/prevent the ill conceived or irresponsible exercise of the executive authority were also discussed.

It was unanimously felt that the constitutional provisions make it abundantly clear that the present Indo-US unclear deal cannot be implemented by the Union Government unless it is translated into a law enacted by Parliament. Any action, therefore, taken by the Union Government to implement the deal without the authority of Parliament is un-constitutional, because it amounts to the usurpation of the power of Parliament by the Union executive. It is also undemocratic because the Union executive will be acting arbitrarily, trampling both the rule of law and also the wishes of the people of India. It will be nothing short of an arbitrary rule by the executive, leading to an unconstitutional government in the country, because what is arbitrary is also unconstitutional.

The Conference noted with dismay that in sharp contrast to its attitude of disrespect and defiance to our own republic, the government has adopted a supine stance of hurrying through the implementation of the deal because of the datelines set by the US Administration.

The Conference was of the view that the government’s stand, particularly that of the PM, that the deal was non-negotiable and should be meekly acquiesced in by Parliament and the people was a challenge to the sovereign authority of Parliament and an affront to democracy.

The Conference, therefore, called upon the political parites, the media, the intelligentsia, and the people at large to take up the challenge and defeat it squarely by all democratic means at their disposal. To this end, the Conference resolved that on the occasion of the forthcoming Gandhi Jayanti, that is, on October 2, 2007 demonstrations and meetings be organised all over the country to resist and defeat the challenge posed by the government.

The second session deliberated on the questions relating to self-reliance in the energy sector in particular, whether the option of the Indo-US nuclear deal was a desirable option for securing energy supply over the coming decades and at what price; the validity of the arguments based on the so-called built-in safeguards for uninterrupted supply of fuel and enormous costs of possible interruption as well as the return of nuclear equipment and supplies; implications of the deal for indigenous research and development of technology for the fast breeder thorium route.

The Conference was of the view that, on the face of it, the Indo-US nuclear deal is subject to the national laws of both the countries, present as well as future. The current US laws, including the Hyde Act 2006, will need to be amended to assure life-time uninterrupted supplies of fuel, under all circumstances, to nuclear reactors the government wants to import. As it stands, the 123 Agreement of August 2007 does not in any way provide binding fuel supply assurances. The huge investments in imported reactors and greater downstream investments in industries that will be set up on the basis of energy supply from those reactors will amount to several lakhs of crores of rupees and it will be an irresponsible and adventurous play with the future of our country to rush into such arrangements. Such a course of action will only deepen the dependence on the USA in every sphere, negating any freedom of internal or external policies.

The three-stage nuclear programme that would utilise the thorium reserves (30 per cent of the world reserves) is nearing fruition and nothing should be done that may adversely affect this R&D effort.

The third session deliberated on the strategic and other wider implications of the process of the lock-in with the USA that the Indo-US nuclear deal signifies. The Defence Cooperation Framework Agreement, other specific agreements that are on the anvil such as the Logistics Support Agreement and the earlier experience of US pressure on India to vote against Iran in the IAEA are clear enough indications of the real meaning of the “cooperation” that the US is looking for. The US has not hesitated in “advising” India publicly that we should forget “non-alignment”. All that this means is that the scheme of things now unfolding calls for India becoming a camp-follower of the US so as to follow the US’s strategic and foreign policy objectives. And this project is unambiguously set on the course of violent, permanent domination of West Asia, on the one hand, and, on the other, of building an effective challenge to developing the alternative focus of power through the emerging cooperation between Russia and East and Central Asia. Both these policy objectives have serious implications for the future of our polity.

The vision of India as it evolved through the struggle for independence and through the decades following independence was founded in ensuring the welfare of the peasantry and the vast working masses, in forging political integrity across the religious and social divides, in promoting self-reliance in not only industry and energy, but also technology. The external dimension of that vision entailed closer cooperation with neighbouring countries, promoting collective self-reliance through economic cooperation among developing countries, and upholding the cause of justice and freedom of countries and peoples victimised by the unjust capitalist global order. It also stood for universal nuclear disarmament. There was and continues to be a natural harmony between the internal and external dimensions of that vision.

With the numerous offensives being launched in agrarian, industrial and technological fields, each element of that vision is being challenged. With the present offensive of the strategic lock-in with the USA, of which the Indo-US nuclear deal is the vanguard, the threat to the survival of that vision has become imminent and all-encompassing.

The Conference therefore resolved that starting with the Mass Action Day on October 2, 2007 intensive countrywide campaign be launched to create sufficient awareness of the serious implications of the process symbolised by the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, followed by protests and demonstrations at the district and regional levels all over the country. To this end, the Conference called upon all democratic and progressive forces including the political parties, the mass platforms, peoples’ movements and concerned individuals to lend their strength to the movement.

The Conference decided to form a coordinating group of persons to monitor the follow-up action

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