Friday, August 24, 2007

Doing the 1 2 3 dance

And so the Left has been trying to make Mr. Manmohan Singh do the 1 2 3 dance! The way things have gone reminds me of the classic Procol Harum song, 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'.

We skipped the light fandango
Turned cartwheels cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
But the crowd called out for more
The room was humming harder
As the ceiling flew away
When we called out for another drink
The waiter brought a tray

The skipping, turning, feeling seasick with joy, is very much how Manmohan Singh and most of the nations thinkers and well-wishers have felt. But when the UPA wants the deal sealed, the comrades played the errant waiter and pooped the party with their tray full of threats, ideological hypocrisy and generally antagonistic stance.

When the PM announced the 123 agreement with the US on sharing of civil nuclear technology, it was treated as a huge breakthrough. Diplomats on both sides have been working for the better part of a year on the technicalities of the deal, a lot of pushing and pulling has been done, and both the US and Indian governments have had to make several compromises in putting the deal on paper.

But now in the final stretch, when commitments have been made by the Indian govt, the communist comrades have decided to rise and sound the warning bells declaring that snuggling up to the Americans is not the way they see India go. Karat, Yechury and the Communist politburo are vociferously putting forth that the deal would limit India's sovereign right to test nuclear weapons. The hypocrisy in this, especially coming from the Left, is mind-boggling.

When our ex-PM of the soporific 'Yeh achi baat nahi hai' fame sanctioned the Pokhran tests, the Left was the most vociferous opposer. They even organised a 'Convention against Nuclear Weapons' at that time! Now they claim they are against the 123 deal as it stops India from testing nuclear weapons.

The Left claims it does not want increased collaboration with their ideological 'Evil Empire', the US, but at the same time, the CPM government in West Bengal is actively pursuing more American investment. Thankfully, Buddhadeb has tried to distance himself from the politburo's decisions.

Part of the ideology of communism is that it is against nationalism, but suddenly the politburo is upholding India's nationalism. The mantra for communism has always been 'Workers of the world unite', not just indian workers.

The deal itself has its points worth discussing. There is the Hyde Act which in some way tags along with the 123 agreement. It is easy for those wholly backing the deal to see the Hyde Act as required policing in such agreements. But there are clauses in there which can be seen as undermining India's sovereignty and its right to defend itself.

The crucial points are -
  1. The 123 provides an opportunity for India to move out of the 'developing country' class into a class above. Nuclear energy is critical in this, as without power, development is stunted. Especially in the backlands, and even the class B or C towns, it would drive growth. It would drive an increase in jobs in the heartlands where youths are constantly migrating to the larger cities in search of work. It also specifies that collaboration will be spread to other areas besides nuclear technology, and this can mean improvements in agriculture, chemical industries etc. Havent we had enough farmer suicides already?
  2. Once the deal is signed, it opens up trade not just with the US, but with several other countries forming the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This includes France and Russia, countries which may not be so concerned about stopping nuclear trade with India, in case the US decides to pull the plug from the deal sometime in the future.
  3. Another crucial factor is that the deal is not just signed between India and the US, it needs to be ratified by both the NSG and the IAEA. The NSG will decide whether India will have a right to re-process spent fuel and definitely has a more accomodating policies.

There is so much good that can come to the country from this deal that the cons are completely out-weighed. But unfortunately, they cannot be completely ignored.

  1. In the event that the NSG or IAEA does not sanction the deal, it remains only between India and the US. In this case, India will need to sit down and re-negotiate some of the clauses. So there is still some more diplomatic hustle to go.
  2. If the US pulls out from the deal in the future, say in response to India testing nukes, and if the NSG also stops fuel supply, India will be left with a huge power problem. There is a great deal of investment required in setting up the infrastructure for nuclear energy generation, and this would be money down the drain. This is a remote possibility though.
  3. If Musharraf loses power in Pakistan, and is replaced with a more fundamentalist government, India will have no choice but to make nuclear noises. This is not that remote a possibility.

This deal could be the way into the future for India. If it goes through, maybe in a few years, India Shining will not just be a phrase - it will be what India looks like from space. Maybe that will attract a few of those UFO's which only seem to show up in the US! ;)