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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 40

It’s Enough Now, Uncle Sam!

Tuesday 23 September 2008, by Suvrokamal Dutta


Its time for the Indian Government to say to the United States of America:” It’s enough now, Uncle Sam!” As time passes by one after another explosive contents of the Indo-US nuclear deal is coming in front of the public eye. The deal right from the day one had generated a political storm here in India and it seems the days ahead would definitely not be smoother.

Initially hell broke out here in India at the political level the moment the deal was first agreed upon in 2005 on the issue of the Hyde clause so much so that the UPA Government at the Centre was battered black and blue both by the Left and the Right to the extent that the Left withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh Government and the UPA Government won the trust vote in a very questionable way through new-found allies.

With the political storm diluting here in India and the Indian masses and intellectuals generally supporting Dr Singh’s government on the nuclear deal, things were brightening up for the UPA Government and India went to the IAEA and the NSG with a very confident domestic support. But hell broke loose during the NSG meeting when a secret letter written by President Bush to the US Congress on January 16, 2008 was made public by Representative Howard L. Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to the Washington Post. It created new problems for the beleaguered Manmohan Singh Government so much so that the National Security Advisor and the External Affairs Minister of India expressed innocence and surprise stating that the Indian Government was aware of such a secret letter but was not aware of the contents.

”The answers were considered so sensitive, particularly because the debate over the agreement in India could have toppled the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the State Department requested they remain secret even though they were not classified,” wrote the Washington Post which quoted a spokesman for Berman as saying he had made the answers public because the US Congress must have “relevant information”. The disclosure seemed to contradict the Bush Administration’s stated intention to push for a clean waiver in the NSG. The letter says the US would help India deal only with “disruptions in supply to India that may result through no fault of its own”, such as a trade war or market disruptions. “The fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of non-proliferation commitments,” the letter further stated. The secret disclosures of the letter to the Washington Post has put a question-mark on the track record of the Manmohan Singh Government’s stand on India’s right to testing even though the Prime Minister has time and again assured the Indian people and Indian Parliament that India hasn’t sacrificed the right to further nuclear test but President Bush’s letter speaks exactly the opposite of what the Indian Government is saying. Perhaps it’s time for Dr Singh to say a thing or two in a candid and upright manner to the over-intelligent American President. The simplicity and honesty of Dr Singh should not be taken as weakness by the American Government.

PRESIDENT BUSH seems to be doing one summersault after another on the 123 Agreement. As though his secret letter was not enough, yet another controversy has broken out over the nuclear deal with the American President describing the 123 Agreement before the US Congress as something that is not legally binding on the United States and having only political significance. President Bush’s letter to the US Congress clearly states that the clause on assurance of fuel supply to India is not legally binding on America which is exactly the opposite of what the 123 Agreement states. The letter states:

In Article 5(6) the Agreement records certain political commitments concerning reliable supply of nuclear fuel given to India. The Agreement does not, however, transform these political commitments into legally binding commitments because the Agreement, like other US agreements of its type, is intended as a framework agreement.

This is a second breach of trust by President Bush.

On the one hand the United States of America proclaims on top of its voice that “India and the USA are equal partners and natural allies”. But on the other hand this is how it behaves in reality. Is this how America treats its natural friends? If this is their notion of friendship then every country would think a million times before extending its hand of friendship with the United States in future.

If the United States of America and its President thinks that it can get away with whatever it does and says, then India can and should apply the same rule.

It needed the help of United States of America in getting the IAEA clearance and the NSG waiver and the Indian people appreciate America’s help in relation to this. But at the same time if the US President behaves in a childish fashion then India should not take the tantrums of the United States any further as already India has taken enough of its tantrums. Now that the doors of the NSG and IAEA are open for India, the Indian Government can very well say that the 123 Agreement and its clauses are not legally binding on India, it has

only a political meaning. She can very well do this by taking a leaf out of the golden letters which President Bush has written to its Congress. The United States of America should very well understand that the doors are wide open for India to go in for similar and perhaps better nuclear deals with other nuclear countries now that the NSG waiver has come.

It’s in American interest to understand that the United States is as much benefited as, if not more than, India because of the Indo-US nuclear deal. After the NSG waiver a huge market here in India has been thrown open for nuclear investment and commerce. Some estimates puts the figure of 40 billion US dollars in the next five years, which is a huge amount, and America would be the biggest loser if India takes a strong view of President Bush’s letter. At the same time India can say that it is not legally bound to give American companies first preference in its huge nuclear market and commerce. Such a position would hurt the American interest the most and it is in the American interest that the USA should allow such a thing to happen because of its duplicity on the 123 Agreement.

The sooner the American intellectuals and their government realise this the better it is for healthy cooperation between both the countries. After all, India and the United States of America have a long way to go. A healthy relationship between the two countries benefits both mutually. India and the USA can be true partners in democracy and natural friends. But then this has to be based on mutual respect, faith and trust .This is the message which the Indian Prime Minister should give to President Bush when both of them meet in the coming few days. The American President should resist himself from writing controversial letters and issuing damaging statements in future; otherwise we self-respecting Indians won’t take time to say: enough is enough, Uncle Sam—nothing at the cost of our self-respect, which is the basic core of Indian culture and tradition, shall be alowed!

The author is a well-known foreign affairs and economic expert; he is the Chairman, Global Council for Peace, and the Convenor, Debating India.

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