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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 31

Ominous Portents


Tuesday 22 July 2008, by SC


The murky goings-on in the Capital prior to the trust vote next week is not only most unfortunate, its consequence could weaken our democratic structure. The signs of desperation in the Congress circles are palpable; hence concealing facts all kinds of myths are being propaganted by the party leadership from the supremo to the heir-apprent to the spokespersons; and now the PM, in an exclusive interview, has reiterated that the Indo-US nuclear deal is “beneficial to India’s growth, that it fills a huge gap in our energy needs”.

Scientists with impeccable credentials, totally wedded to India’s self-reliant advance, have already exposed the hollowness of such assertions. Now the heir-apparent has contested those who claim that the augmentation of energy as a result of the deal will not be more than three per cent and that too after a considerable length of time—in his view the augmentation of energy could be 70 per cent! There is no understanding of the reality, no effort to comprehend the complexities. As a former Scientific Adviser to PM Indira Gandhi has convincingly explained with facts, the deal is not in the “national interest” because of the “nature, scope, content, intent and detailed provisions” of both the Hyde Act and 123 Agreement. Suffice it to bring out two operative paragraphs from his contribution in The Hindu:

Hyde requires the US Government to extract from the Indian Government a “specific future date” after which we will not produce weapon grade plutonium even from our own unsafeguarded reactors. This will be a body blow to our weapons programme. India is also required to follow US diplomatic and negotiating positions on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), although our position on the Treaty differs cardinally from the US position. As though these were not enough, the Act calls on the US government to further tighten the NSG Guidelines, particularly for India.

Not confining itself to nuclear matters, the Act requires the Indian Government to adopt a foreign policy across the board fully concordant with the US Government must follow the United States to even apply sanctions on Iran. How can we accept such a stipulation when we have longstanding cordial relations of a civilisational character with Iran, and are about to conclude two very major 25-year natural gas supply agreements vital to our energy security?

It is only those suffering from acute myopia who would choose to reject such observations which are indeed irrefutable.

In the meantime every effort is being made by the ruling dispensation at the Centre to ensure its survival so that the nuclear deal survives. In this way the UPA Government has staked its future for the deal. It would then perforce have to answer the query: is it a one-agenda government? The ruling coalition has taken certain good steps like formulating the Right to Information Act and the NREGA (even though there are serious lacunae in their implementation). But the PM can hardly take credit for those—so he is hitching his future only on the nuclear deal. This is a risky venture, to say the least. (And as has been explained in the past, the deal’s significance lies not in what it spells out in print, but what kind of relationship it opens up with the US. That is the crux of the matter.)

One senior Left leader has made a serious allegation about the massive horsetrading in progress for winning the trust vote. Some Congress leaders have asked him to furnish proof knowing full well that foolproof evidence of such allegations cannot be furnished overnight. In fact had the JMM MPs, bribed during Narasimha Rao’s premiership, not stracked their cash amounts in banks, the entire bribing episode would not have come to light.

Overall it is a highly dangerous scenario in which industrial houses as well as the Americans are busy trying to influence policy. In such circumstances our independence of judgment and action are under severe threat. This has direct impact on both our independence and democracy. In a sense our future itself is in jeopardy.

In this setting we can only hope for effective and positive mass intervention to overcome the crisis. That will also give a fitting rebuff to the machinations of the vested interests, both domestic and overseas, in the long term.

July 17 S.C.

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