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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 31

On Third Anniversary of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Tuesday 22 July 2008, by Amna Mirza


As the third anniversary of the Indo-United States (US) Nuclear Deal approaches on July 18, and the determined leaders—Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush—want it in ‘haste’ to prove their legacy before they depart from the throne, a larger issue of feasibility of the nuclear deal and national interest comes to the fore.

The issue of transparency and accountability in our democratic polity acquires prominence as information for the common people is grossly lacking resulting in uninformed debate prevailing via media management.

Firstly, the political-strategic aspect of this deal needs to be seen to be understood in terms of its embedded context. It is part of a strategic framework which would be used to reinforce ‘Pax Americana’. This goes back to the readings of the US National Security Document 2002 which spells out Russia and China as enemies but mentions India as a possible ally.

In terms of technology and energy, it is not that big a deal. If the Prime Minister laments that the nation has inadequate uranium funding, then the blame for this morass goes to him, when he as the Finance Minister slashed the expenditure on uranium in prodigal terms. Both thermal and hydro electricity are much cheaper and safe alternative sources; but these are not being tapped as much as they should be. Further, the question of a nuclear weapons-free South Asia, which India wants to realise as an integral part of a world bereft of nuclear weapons, a fundamental objective of its foreign policy, cannot be dictated by the United States.

In terms of what the deal has to offer, the picture is not in the least bright. The reprocessing and enrichment technology is not being given. The clauses may ensure an end to the nuclear apartheid that India has suffered for long, but the conditions for such a development militate against national interest.

The other issue of strengthening Indo-US ties through the deal seems superficial. With the rise of multilateralism as a force in world politics, Indo-US ties have been marked by ‘closer engagement’. This growing warmth will not be reversed even if the deal is not enforced. Thus to base the entire paraphernalia of relations with the United States on this deal seems to put bilateral ties on a weak foundation.

The very process involved in executing the deal is complex. It is thus all the more intriguing as to why the government is ready to put its future at stake just for this deal. What the leaders in both nations fail to perceive is that they cannot fashion legacy by such symbolism.

The issue of national interest is grossly misunderstood and understated. To dub it in sole military or nuclear arsenal terms is flawed. National security has a much wider dimension with the rise of terrorism, narcotics, natural disasters where the threats are cutting across borders. Then there are vital issues which warrant the attention of the government like women’s reservation, plight of unorganised sector due to globalisation, foreign investment in retail. It is high time the present government gives up its blinkered vision with the sole focus on the nuclear deal for the integrity of the nation. n

The author is an M.Phil student of Political Science, University of Delhi. She can be contacted at

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