By Seema Mustafa
The story is not over. And the story, regardless of the euphoric media, is no longer in the passage of the nuclear deal as that has become a foregone conclusion. If a government is willing to bend over backwards, accept any clause, any tail pulling, any compromise, there is no international deal that will fall through the world over. The reason why some deals do not make it is because these tamper with a nations sovereignty, dignity and pride and are not equitable in their impact. When a government is willing to swallow all that a nation stands for, even the most difficult pacts will go through.
The story has long since shifted from the nuclear deal to the UPA government's ability to sink as low as it possibly can for a divisive deal that compromises the country's future. The hype is such that the NSG waiver is being interpreted as a major victory, an end to India's nuclear isolation, of having reached the 'high table' if not by sitting on the chair, then at least as one television commentator put it excitedly, by sitting on the stool.
The story will unravel in the coming weeks and months. The first indications will come from the small print in the NSG waiver. The second will come from the visit of the Union Defence Minister A.K.Antony to the US where the Indian Air Force is currently in the 'final run' of the Red Flag Exercises that the US earlier only carried out with Nato member nations. India is now a proud participant having paid Rs 80 crores for the exercises where the air force of all the participating nations basically learn to work together through a series of complicated exercises. The third will come from the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US in September, where he will no doubt be privately entertained by the lameduck, highly unpopular US President George W.Bush.
What is going to be the cost of sitting on a stool, or even a chair, at the high table? Most of this has already been answered, some of it will be answered by the NSG waiver when it is finally released, read and understood. This cannot remain a secret document as was the letter written to late chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee Tom Lantos by the State Department. In this 45 key questions were answered in what amounts to a policy declaration by the Bush administration on the nuclear deal. The Indian government has claimed it had no idea about this, surprising really as every one concerned with the nuclear deal or writing on the nuclear deal was aware of its existence and some of the contents. The government should have asked the US administration for the document that was neither secret or classified. The US claims that New Delhi knew the details, the government here continues to deny this hoping that the generated vagueness will work to its advantage.
The letter establishes what has been written by India's nuclear scientists and strategic experts over and over again, spoken of by the Left and Opposition leaders, and discussed threadbare in Parliament. The government instead of responding to the consensus against the nuclear deal in Parliament has sought to buy approval with money and berths, and has resorted to every little trick in the book to see this dubious deal through. The letter released now by the US foreign affairs committee of the House of representatives clearly shows that 1) if India conducts a nuclear test, the US will cut off nuclear trade and take back all the nuclear materials it has supplied, including fuel.2) there will be no guarantees of perpetual fuel supply; 30 there will be no transfer of sensitive technology and 4) the Hyde Act and the US Atomic Energy Act will be as binding on this nuclear deal as the 123 agreement. Pointing this out former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission P.K.Iyengar says, "we find ourselves in the following impossible situation. If we go ahead with the nuclear deal and by some miracle we even manage to import nuclear power at competitive prices (many years from now) we simultaneously destroy our strategic programme as well as put ourselves at the mercy of the nuclear cartel. How can this deal be in the national interest?"
The Hyde Act that the US has to implement as the enabling legislation for the nuclear deal, further shackles India's foreign policy options to those "congruent" with the US. It is amazing how not a single diplomat, present or former, ecstatically supporting the deal has stopped to ask what the US is getting from the nuclear deal. In fact they have all joined the Prime Minister and his ambassador to the US Ronen Sen in projecting Bush as a messiah committed to solving India's energy problems for little more than climate change returns! India has been already garnering its foreign policy to that of the US. The vote against Iran at the IAEA, the complete silence on the terrible developments in Iraq, the support for the Karzai government with little word about the regrouping of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the China threat, the reluctance to endorse the Maoists in Nepal, in short the inability to think and act for ourselves. In defence, we have been diverting procurements away from Russia to Israel in what is yet another major strategic shift.
The UPA government has taken the deliberate decision to push India out of the non aligned camp into the US embrace. The nuclear deal is the symbolic and strategic step towards this. US State department officials have said as much, pointing towards the significance of the nuclear deal for the new relationship in South Asia, now that Pakistan has become defunct as a strategic partner, and for bringing India into the non proliferation regime without signing the NTPT or the CTBT. In doing so Singh and his cronies have ensured 1) India does not test, as the price of testing will be too much in terms of just dollars for this country to bear. It is a fact that India does not have a credible deterrent, and by refusing to define this the government has abdicated responsibility at this stage; 2) India no longer has independent control over its nuclear asserts with the US Congress now having a bilateral say in determining the nature of the civilian nuclear program; 3) the nuclear energy generated ---after twenty years---will meet only five to six per cent of the total national requirement, and will be phenomenally expensive and 4) the larger agreement on defence, agriculture, knowledge, democracy that was signed between Singh and Bush will now be acclerated. One of the goals is to draw India into the Proliferation Security Initiative, and make it a firm partner for implementing US plans in Asia.
The reasons for India's opposition to the nuclear deal have not been diluted with the NSG waiver. Rather these have been strengthened, and the loud bleating of supporters cannot take away from the fact that the government has surrendered strategic space to another country. And what makes it worse, there was no need to. A defence officer was so right when he said the other day, "we are in a position today to dictate our terms and conditions, we are such a huge market, every one is coming here, but somehow we end up accepting every thing others dictate." Why? Because our Prime Minister is not able to show us the way, and the party in power believes its better to crawl when asked to bend.