Saturday, August 18, 2007

Nuclear deal, the debate and India's image

How awful that all this tamasha, shameful at that, should happen when we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of our Independence. Ten years back too, during the golden jubilee celebration, the behaviour of our politicians left me wonder: is this the self-rule we are celebrating?

The Indo-US nuclear deal. I am not worried that the deal is being vigorously supported or opposed. It's the way the deal is being opposed, that must raise concern more than the deal itself. To be frank, I am not fully well-versed with the nitty-gritty of the agreement to take a strong stand on it. From whatever I have managed to read and understand this is what I feel.

The governments of India and the US have spent considerable time and energy trying to work out a deal. One reason why India needs this agreement is because, we have a huge energy shortfall which this deal addresses. We have lots of reasons to feel happy that India's self-reliance and standing as a responsible global player has been acknowledged quite explicitly by the US while this deal was being worked out. (What we need to be careful is, this respect we have earned is not squandered.)

The government has been fair in explaining in any number of ways over a long period of time why the deal is being worked out. Enough discussion and debating has happened over the past many months. The scientific community too has come out largely in support.

Where is the opposition and why?

The BJP is really not opposed to the deal. They just can't say that openly. If they were in power they too would have worked out the same deal with the US. Their opposition, if at all, is mainly due to an envy, that Congress is hogging all the international limelight. In fact it was during the BJP rule, India shed all its inhibitions and began getting closer to the US.

The Left parties are the one who continue to come out so poorly in all this. What piques them the most is the fact that it is the US with whom we have worked out the deal. Their opposition doesn't seem to have any grounding.

The Left can't live in the past. The nation won't benefit in any way.

Where is the discussion in Parliament?

The Parliament looks majestic but what happens inside hardly inspires. Unfortunate that it should be so, during the 60th anniversary of our Independence.

Our Constitution does not require Parliament to ratify international treaties. Yesterday, L K Advani, proposed an amendment to this effect. But going by the sort of discussion we had in Parliament, I doubt how seriously we must take up Advani's suggestion.

Though a ratification is not necessary, the government did set apart two days, Aug 14 and 16, for discussion. But instead of some excellent debating, what we saw was Parliamentarians shouting slogans and disrupting the proceedings forcing the Chair to adjourn repeatedly. The Prime Minister's address was drowned in shouts. The tradition was that when the Prime Minister got up to speak, no one else stood up and the PM was heard in silence.

Did we fight for Independence to have such a Parliament? Is this the way Indian Parliament should function? Is this the way a democracy works?

Why US wouldn't trust India

But before that, why should we win the trust of the US, of all nations? Simple: the present state of geopolitics. Whether we all like it not, it is an undeniable fact that US policies have far-reaching, extensive and at times dramatic influence across all nations in the world.

Some people, some nations, be they heroes or villains, matter in this world. It's foolhardy and hypocritical not to accept this fact.

Is it necessary to impress the US? May not be always. But definitely not worth antagonising them, more so as a matter of habit.

Aren't we then the slaves of the US, as the Left portrays? No.

Why? Because, on many, occasions, we have been able to convince the US of our points of view; force the US to accept them; and change their attitudes, and get them to toe our line. In one sense, then, Tony Blair's UK and John Howard's Australia are much more servile to Bush's US.

Incidentally, in today's world, there is no master, there is no slave. All are dependent on everyone else: for survival. The US is dependent on India as much as India is dependent on the US.

It is the order of deals and agreements in this globalised, interdependent world. India's image matters today much more than during the Soviet, socialist, era. George Fernandes, former defence minister, did a lot of harm yesterday by saying that had it (the deal) been in China, he (PM Manmohan Singh) would have been shot. Look at the way Indian politicians are debating an international treaty!

If the world gets to see that these are the sort of politicians modern India has, not just the US, why should anyone, any country, trust India and its power brokers. Why should the US or any country, feel assured that a nuclear bomb will be safe with Indian politicians? What maturity are our lawmakers displaying?

The nuclear explosions the BJP government went ahead with made the world sit up. That was something the Congress couldn't do. At the end of it all, India began to be seen as a major power. India, during Vajpayee's tenure, also managed to win global respect and confidence. The BJP government deserved to take a huge credit for this.

Now, is the same BJP, in combination with other fringe parties, squandering that hard-earned admiration? Shouldn't the same BJP, that showed a new proactive dynamism in power, also usher in new standards of opposition behaviour with its debating skills and constructive criticism?

Sixty years of independence is a time not just to celebrate; it's a time to ponder as to where we stand, what course corrections we need to make, so that India realises its fully potential.


  1. Agree with you. I dont know ABC of this 123Agreement. But the debate is not going the right way. No one is addressing how we will bridge the huge energy gap, should we go how we all think we should. Soverignity in this world needs self sufficiency. There is no self sufficiency with no dependence at all. We are dependant. Independance only means the nature in which we can debate which dependency we take. We are not independant. We are dependant to the vote politics.

  2. LEft drama is all for publicity. good chance you know to get on tv.

  3. i had a similar comment for Abraham Tharakan's blog as well,
    which was

    'actions and reactions are not decided by treaties and agreements, but by the circumstances in geopolitics. The treaty is the CYA (cover your behind) for the business at hand that needs to be concluded and benificial to both parties, which is lucriative sale of fuel, rightfully so. The need is to improve the power infrastructure in India which is where the focus should be!! But then, politics has always been warped!!

  4. Thanks Pradeep for once again writing an article in a way that is easily understandable. The mockery is sad. Whether you like the PM or not, you must give him his due at the parliament. Anyway...