Featured Post

Trust: Missing in action where it counts

Whom do you trust? That's a big, loaded question. And at least one organisation has been putting out a Trust Barometer for 14 years now...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bushfire of a different kind

With the US and India having signed the Nuclear Pact, that diplomatic circles are calling a giant and a historic step forward in Indo-US relations. But as there always is, there's another voice being raised. The Left has its own set of fears and it doesn't help that President Bush has run roughshod over some other countries in our neighbourhood lately. Besides, having cosied up to Pakistan all along has not exactly made him popular here.

So this nuke deal may be his way of appeasing India just a little bit. Strategic Affairs editor of The Indian Express and the author of a new book on India-US relations, 'Impossible Allies', C Raja Mohan feels that this deal is good news because "it confers on India, the legitimacy of being a nuclear weapons state and secondly, it gives us access to the entire nuclear energy market. Also, it gives us strategic parity with China and differentiates us from Pakistan."

Deputy Editor of The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan whose opinions have also been against such a deal taking place, now feels that because of the vigorous debate in this country over the nuke deal, the technical parameters have been met. As a result loopholes were plugged and unpleasant caveats were taken care of.

He credits it to "the negotiation process, in which public debates also played a role" and therefore this "agreement is something we can be happy with and a lot of the Indian reservations over what happens has been taken care of. This removes us from technological collonialism." So with this prickly nuclear issue out of the way, there is scope for growth in other spheres.

C Raja Mohan adds that in India, things do tend to get blown way out of proportion and some quarters overdid the anxiety and some of the fears were unrealistic. But India has been in control of this deal, and all of what the top scientists wanted is ably represented and will reflect in the deal, the details of which the Prime Minister will finally tell the Lok Sabha soon.

So what is not clearly known is the nature of safeguards that we have to accept, which have yet to be determined by the IAEA. The Prime Minister has assured the public that he will get them to create India-specific safeguards. But Rajamohan says that the IAEA has already said in July of last year, that India will get the same treatment as the others. Besides, there is actually a chance that the IAEA may be more stringent on India because we have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, NPT.

C Raja Mohan explains what India-specific safeguards mean in such a case. He says, "Unlike the non-nuclear states under the NPT, who have to put their entire nuclear programme under safeguards, we don't have to do it. And unlike the nuclear weapons states, who can switch in and out of the military and civilian list, we won't have that option. What we put in the civilian list, will stay there permanently and that's the only bad thing, of this undertaking."

Former ambassador to Washington, Lalit Mansingh feels that one of the safeguards could be that India has been assured that in times of an emergency, the civilian facilities could be shifted to do military duty. This is despite the 'perpetuity clause' signed yesterday.

Even Varadarajan who has come around to seeing the deal, as a good one has reservations on the issue of safeguards - on whether the US will sign off on the deal, that India wangles out of the IAEA. Even though, India's unique position means that the IAEA may not give India the same deal as the other five nuclear NPT countries, Varadrajan feels "it's not the end of the world."

C Raja Mohan agrees and says that when the big boss wants something, then the other countries will follow suit, so with the US endorsing this deal, India gets the opportunity to change its position in the nuclear order.

Mansingh adds, "If you think of worst case scenarios, you are going to be scared. But this is where the world is heading and besides the IAEA has been supportive of this, the UN Secretary-General has supported this and Russia, Britain France has also supported this deal."

Now it remains to be seen, if US President George Bush can sway the US Congress to support this deal. Again the consensus is that, though he has expended his political capital with the disastrous war in Iraq and the Katrina hurricane scandal, this is one deal that he just may be able to get support for. One of the chief reasons being that, if the President has chosen to make a foreign policy decision of this magnitude, then it must have been done with support in the first place.

But Varadarajan says that India should take this deal as a separate entity and not add any political baggage to it. So, India should not have second thoughts on its own political relations with other countries, that the US is threatening with sanctions - for instance like what is happening with Iran.

Another reason why India is getting the royal treatment today, could well be that India may be expected to support Bush's other foreign policy measures, vis-a-vis other countries. Varadarajan advises that, India should be able to see through this ploy and should remain firm on its position, otherwise India stands to lose its credibility.

For more on C Raja Mohan's book 'Impossible Allies' click here: http://www.prakashbooks.com/details.php3?id=19862&c=Current%20Affairs%20/%20Politics

Note: At the time of writing this editorial, the deal had yet to make its ponderous way through the House of Representatives, let alone the Senate. So, please keep that in mind, when reading this article.

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

No comments: