By Seema Mustafa
The last weeks have demonstrated the cobbling together of one of the most opportunistic alliances, with Amar Singh and Sonia Gandhi coming together after years of hate rhetoric, anger and accusations. One has deliberately not mentioned Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, as he seems really out of it, standing beside Amar Singh like the proverbial flunkey and speaking only when allowed a couple of minutes in the spotlights.
Lies and opportunistic alliances are again being used by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress to push through the anti-national nuclear deal with the United States. The latest in the long string of falsehoods, used skillfully by the PMO, to build opinion for the nuclear deal is the assurance to the nation that the government would not approach the IAEA for the safeguards agreement until the trust vote in Parliament is secured. Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee said this in front of the entire media, and within hours he was eating his words as the government under instructions from the Prime Minister had sent the draft to the Board of Governors for consideration.
The MEA of course is now hard at work trying to save its minister, maintaining that only the draft has been circulated and the Board of Governors has still to meet formally. This is absolute rubbish, and yet another indication of the manner in which the executive has manipulated the nation to push through a nuclear deal that the majority in India continues to reject. Just before this the same Pranab Mukherjee had told the Left that no action would be taken on the deal until the Congress-Left coordination committee appointed for this purposed reaching its findings. However, long before this was so, the government made it clear that it had decided to go ahead with the nuclear deal with a sulking prime minister threatening to resign in the face of any other decision.
The first lie in the current series was the claim by the senior ministers of the UPA that they could not show the draft of the safeguards agreement to the Left, or other political parties, as under the international terms and conditions it was a classified document. The IAEA recently made it known that this was far from the case, and so far as it was concerned the draft could have been shared by the government with anyone of its choice. In fact, US non proliferation websites carried the draft of the Indian agreement with the IAEA a good ten hours or more before the harried MEA quickly pasted it on its site, following a scathing attack by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat. Now rather stupid, and even juvenile arguments are being advanced by the mandarins to justify the political stand that are not acceptable to even the normally pliant media.
The government hid the draft of the IAEA safeguards agreement from the nation with good reasons. For it knew, despite the writings of some, that this did not protect India's interests at any level and that there was a strong independent voice in this country that would not hesitate to point this out. Experts have pointed out that the agreement is not India specific, as the government had claimed, but was modeled on agreements between the IAEA and the non-nuclear-weapons states. The softer words are contained only in the preamble and not the operational part of the agreement that remains silent on India's nuclear military programme, and makes no mention of her special status as a nuclear weapons state that has voluntarily placed its civilian nuclear program under iAEA inspections. Prime Minister Singh had assured Parliament on March 7, 2006 that "an India-specific safeguards agreement will be negotiated between India and the IAEA" but clearly he has little regard for Parliament.
The 123 agreement, as expert Brahma Chellaney has pointed out, did not give India the right to take corrective measures but merely stated that the country would seek such a right in the IAEA accord. The only reference to "corrective measures" in the safeguards agreement is in the preamble that reads, "India may take corrective measures to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear reactors in the event of disruption of foreign fule supplies." But the corrective measures are not defined, and the accord make it clear that under no circumstance will India be allowed to withdraw from its safeguards obligations in perpetuity. As he said, "put simply, India has willingly forfeited the right to enforce perpetual fuel supply."
The safeguards agreement does not guarantee fuel supply and also fails to establish a link between perpetual IAEA inspections and perpetual fuel supply. There is no reference in the text to "fuel supply" or to "strategic reserve of nuclear fuel." Experts thus conclude that the operative parts of the Indian-IAEA safeguards accord mirrors the clauses found in the agreements with non-nuclear-weapons states. The Hyde Act still remains the guiding legislation for the US Congress to operationalise the 123 agreement, with the Prime Minister having failed dismally to bring about modifications to protect India's sovereignty in this nuclear deal.
Karat is not wrong in saying that the Left and the nation, in this case, has been betrayed by an unscrupulous Congress. The last weeks have demonstrated the cobbling together of one of the most opportunistic alliances, with Amar Singh and Sonia Gandhi coming together after years of hate rhetoric, anger and accusations. One has deliberately not mentioned Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, as he seems really out of it, standing beside Amar Singh like the proverbial flunkey and speaking only when allowed a couple of minutes in the spotlights. In fact, Amar Singh has also managed to reduce the PMO to a similar status, asking the Prime Minister of India now to intervene in a feud between two brothers, Mukesh and Anil Ambani. And to ensure that no one is in doubt where his own loyalties stand, he has hit out at the former while maintaining that this bitter rivalry has national dimensions. The silence from the PM indicates a certain willingness to intervene, or a certain fear that denial might cost the Congress the government. Either ways it is particularly reprehensible that now the Prime Ministers Office is being reduced by both sides, to this low level.
The Congress managers are rushing around trying to cobble a majority with the support of one leader parties, and others like Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Janata Dal who are all putting forward a long wish list. Stability will remain the issue, particularly if the government wins the trust vote, with just a narrow margin with every two or three MP party then being in a position to blackmail the Congress for its own ends. For instance, it will be fascinating to watch Amar Singh's reaction if the PM announces that he will not mediate in the Mukesh-Anil Ambani feud, as it is below the dignity of the office that he holds! Disproportionate asset cases against BSP leader Mayawati that had been placed in cold storage while she was in touch with Sonia Gandhi, have now been revived to squeeze the UP chief minister into submission. Amar Singh has said that his party does not want cabinet berths, and perhaps he is right, for the alliance with the Congress will prove beneficial for him in more ways than one. Samajwadi MPs are upset, but not many have the courage to move from the pan into the fire as it were, and the tricky politics of UP has taught them to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
The common minimum program has been thrown out of the window, being replaced by the politics of rank opportunism. The government will in all probability survive on July 21-22 as too many powerful interests are at work. This will be projected as a victory, when essentially it is a defeat for parliamentary democracy. The worst kind of opportunism will be endorsed by a section of political parties, clinging together for money and power. The Congress party managers will then set to work with spit and polish to give this new alliance a gloss that they hope will pass muster, and fool the people of India into parting with their votes in the next general elections. But fortunately, the people who vote in this country are not fools, and will not allow the opportunists in power to barter their security---economic, political and social---for 40,000 megawats of nuclear power. And that too in ten years, a figure disputed by all scientists in this country.