By Seema Mustafa
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared his "deep love" for US President George W.Bush. He did prefix this with India but considering the fact that he himself is not an elected Prime Minister, and represents a party with a decided minority in Parliament, he is really not entitled to speak for the people of the country. And he knows as well as we, that he was actually proclaiming his "deep love" for Bush and said so without prepared text, and with a passion that earned some comment even in the normally passive Indian media.
Unfortunately, the two could not sign the 123 agreement and have had to leave it to their juniors, Condoleeza Rice and Pranab Mukherjee to complete their formalities. Even this came under a shadow of doubt, as New Delhi wanted Bush to sign the legislation before the deal was concluded in the Indian capital. At the time of writing the mess was still being handled by both sides, with uncertainty written into Rice's visit and of course, insistence that India do her end of it without waiting for the US President to sign the dotted lines. The Left and others staged black flag demonstrations protesting the visit, and the surrender of Indian sovereignty to Washington's will.
Prime Minister Singh has set a record of sorts, and while there is little he can claim during his five years of governance, he can at least go down in history as a one issue leader. He ensured that the Prime Ministers Office did not waste much time in tackling other issues of import, and devoted itself to pursuing the nuclear deal. To a point where even the National Security Advisor M.K.Narayanan forgot his real duties, and pursued the deal with the zeal of the new convert.
Precious man hours were spent in handling the propaganda through meticulous half truths and outright lies, as for the first time a Parliament session was hijacked by a handful of politicians and bureaucrats. The monsoon session has not been held and Parliament will now meet for just one session. The outcry from political parties was not heeded, and the government used its clout to further erode democracy and its institutions.
The US House of Representatives and the US Senate have both attached what should have been unacceptable conditions to the nuclear bill. It has been made crystal clear that the 123 agreement is subject to the provisions of the Hyde Act and the Atomic Energy Act and does not supersede either. Now this was stated over and over again by the Congressmen, reiterated by Bush in his Presidential determination, and included again in the Bills cleared by the House and the Senate. But even so it is not being acknowledged by the Indian government with the Prime Minister and his team now waiting for further 'clarifications' from President Bush. As if the lame duck President can say otherwise, and counter the US Congress for India's benefit. The Bill as passed by the House says repeatedly that "nothing in the agreement shall be construed to supersede the legal requirements of the Henry J.Hyde Act…."and it should be clear now to even this Prime Minister that there is little Bush can do to supersede this. Mutual love notwithstanding.
It is clear even to those accompanying the Prime Minister to the US (judging from the absence of loud cheers) that the US Congress has made it clear that it expects the administration not just to discourage, but to actually "prevent" the Nuclear Suppliers Group from supplying nuclear fuel to India in case it violates the provisions of the agreement and carries out a nuclear test. In other words, India can ignore everything and test but it will face not just back breaking sanctions but will also find itself without a nuclear program as the US and the NSG will stop the fuel supply, take back the reactors, and close nuclear cooperation altogether.
The US Congress has also made it clear that India, despite its Prime Ministers claims, has not joined the nuclear weapon states. And as Bush said in his determination is still a non nuclear weapon state and will, thus, not benefit from the transfer of enrichment technology with a question mark placed over permissions for reprocessing imported fuel. In fact the House of Representatives Bill, as senior scientist P.K.Iyengar has pointed out, contains a "disturbing clause" where under Section 204 "the President has to certify that the US will work with NSG countries to 'agree to further restrict the transfers of equipment and technology related to the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent fuel." And to counter the propaganda of the Indians, the Bill makes it even more clear that any future proposal for reprocessing needs explicit approval from the Congress which also retains the right to refuse. So much then for the 123 agreement.
India will most certainly not be sitting on the nuclear high table, and all the assurances given by Singh and his team of servile bureaucrats have been outright lies. The critics of the nuclear deal that includes the nuclear scientists, the Left parties, the BJP, and a small section of the media has said all this over and over again before. But each time the PMO with some of the Congress and UPA ministers launched a scathing attack against those seeking to preserve India's sovereignty and right to decision making. Dr Iyengar again points out, as he has along with others so many times before, "the reality is that the nuclear deal will not bring us as equals to the nuclear table. It will only serve to tighten the non proliferation regime around us, make us dependent on the nuclear cartel for fuel and completely cripple our strategic programme."
Even now the UPA government appears to be in a tearing hurry. Singh wants the deal to be signed before Parliament meets as the flak might re-open the agreement yet again, from the Indian end. He had assured Parliament that he would return to it after the NSG clearance and before signing the nuclear deal with the US, but clearly that is not a promise he intends to keep.
The rush now is for Rice to somehow steamroll Mukherjee and the rest into signing the deal before Bush does his end of it, so that the will of the people can be circumvented and Parliament confronted with a done deal. Singh does not mind the flak and can sit through the worst time in the House with a dead pan position, for in his mind he is accountable to no one in India, and has long since decided his mentor is in Washington.
And if the pliant media is looking for more evidence of this, it can be found in his new found interest in the violence against Christians. This has been going on for six weeks in Orissa where the Christians have been killed and made refugees in their own land. There was no response from the centre, but now after his travels abroad Singh is credited with concern about the plight of the Christian minority. And for once he is frank. This is because the governments in the US and Europe raised the issue with him, and he found it "embarrassing" enough to order some action at home. Perhaps, the wag at the Press Club was right. "if they sell us out at this speed then perhaps the summer capital for the Indian government should shift to Washington. As it is most of them are there during that time."