Saturday, July 12, 2008

Get ready for nuclear showdown

Governments in developing countries like India are influenced -- in a positive or negative manner -- by popular issues like price rise, corruption, bad infrastructure, etc. On the other hand, in developed nations like the US and those in Europe issues are generally abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, Darwin's theory of evolution, etc.

So the manner in which India's politics is revolving around the Indo-US nuclear deal is as much unusual as it is surprising. India is not -- at least as of now -- a country where such a complicated, technical issue can be considered as one that will vote in or vote out a government.

It's quite some time that the issue has been hogging national media attention. To begin with, it was euphoric riding on the after-effects of George Bush's visit to India. Not much was heard about the Left's opposition then. Gradually, when details of the draft of the safeguard agreement, which has now gone to the IAEA, began to emerge, Left began to see red.

The whole issue has been driven by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. His and fellow comrades' anti-Americanism is such, it wouldn't be matched by even those in China or Russia. Listening to all the rhetoric, I wonder if the Left would have opposed this deal had it been China or Russia instead of the US. Also my guess is that Karat's predecessor, Harkishen Singh Surjeet would have handled this issue much more realistically than the present leadership.

The Left must remember that India's agreements with the erstwhile Soviet Union were not entirely balanced. During those days we were virtually a puppet of the Soviet Union, though it was never described such. That's not the case today: India is looked upon with respect and admiration.

Little-known issue

I don't think ever in the recent past, an issue that few people have understood has held the nation's politics to ransom. Even all the learned scientists haven't been able to fathom the full import of the complicated deal. When some scientists oppose the deal one doesn't know if they are doing so out of ideological reasons or on technical grounds.

The issue is heading for climax: on July 22 we will know if the Indian government will live to carry the nuclear deal forward. The ridiculous manner in the issue has been bandied about by politicians (like it's anti-Muslim, it's a surrender to the US, BJP is more dangerous than Bush etc), I have my doubts on the standard of debate that will precede the vote.

Finally if the voting on the nuclear deal will be based on whether Bush is better or worse than BJP, then it's going to be truly tragic. The debate should be on the lines of India's energy needs. Incidentally, top news now a days is about the power shortage most states are facing. I don't think we need to be a great scientists to know that our requirements of energy will be huge in the coming years considering the way we are growing.

Get ready for a carpet bombing by the Congress and the Left with information on the deal. I hope it will educate all of us -- most importantly, the MPs.

A chance missed

Ideally, Congress from the beginning should have included the BJP in the discussions. Because issues such as this, which concern our energy needs, are not political or ideological: they impact our very living. In the US there is tradition of getting "bipartisan support". It's the equivalent of what in India we call "across party lines". While in the US this phrase is very often heard, it's equivalent in India is a rarity. Historic agreements like the Indo-US nuclear deals should be collectively steered by the nation's best brains. Had the Congress reached out to the entire political spectrum and nurtured the deal through all-party meetings they could probably have avoided this situation of the deal hanging fire.


  1. Well said, the phrase "across party lines" is a rarity in Indian context while it is frequent in the US when it comes to issues with national interest and the general good of US citizens.

    Hope the future administrations will take into confidence lawmakers from across the aisle and reach for them when national interests are at stake.


  2. pradeep
    talking on view from the Left side, did you catch what the old, venerable achuthanandan had to say? "China's nuke deals are done on its own terms; even if the other party happens to be the mighty US."

    and on kalam's reported support to the deal, "what has he done beyond sending rockets? (or something like that; imagine that being said in crude malayalam) and there are greater scientists who have voiced apprehension on the deal."