Wednesday, September 10, 2008

India's strategic Sellout

by seema mustafa

The drums are beating and the urchins are dancing on the streets. They are all celebrating the waiver obtained from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his team barely slept the last night, as they carefully steered India through the next step of becoming a US subordinate.
The vigilant media chasing even drivers for sound bytes at Vienna was particularly ecstatic. The NSG waiver, the scribes insisted, allowed India to immediately start nuclear commerce with Russia, France and the rest. See, they parroted, we are not in the US bed, and can diversify. By the next day it was apparent to even the most supportive that this was not to be. And there was no waiver until the deal was cleared by the US Congress.
It is clear for those who want to see it that the Hyde Act, the enabling legislation for the 123 agreement, holds sufficient clauses to make even the Prime Minister admit that certain changes were required. His were just token noises that eventually sought refuge in the 123 agreement, insisting that India was bound by this little document and not the Hyde Act. The US officials, including Secretary Condleeza Rice, have repeatedly pointed out that the deal will be implemented under the provisions of the Hyde Act that are binding on the administration, and under which it has to ensure that India follows the prescribed path. Much has been written about this to bear repetition now.
The text of the NSG waiver has very clearly converted the voluntary moratorium on testing into a multilateral commitment. The safeguards on India's nuclear facilities will be in perpetuity. Any fuel supply agreement India agrees to will be subject to periodic NSG review. The restrictions on the transfer of sensitive technologies will continue. Any NSG country can block separate deals that India may contemplate, even with countries that offer better terms like cooperation in uranium enrichment and reprocessing.
Former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, P.K.Iyengar, analysed the policy document of the US State Department, spelt out as answers to 45 questions posed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He told this columnist that it was clear that now if India conducts a nuclear test, the US will immediately abrogate the 123 agreement, and take back all the nuclear materials including the fuel it has supplied; that there are no guarantees of perpetual fuel supply or provisions to stock for a lifetime; there will be no transfer of sensitive nuclear technology and the US is clear that its actions will not be dictated just by the 123 agreement, but also the Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act.
The NSG waiver has underlined this as well, being neither clean nor unconditional. This is crystal clear except to the poor urchins made to dance to any tune, the corporate media, the Congress party, the Prime Minister and his team, and of course sections of the middle class for whom the deal is just seen as a passport to the US. Ironically, it is very clear to the US that knows what it has entered to, has a plan for taking this forward, and is closely following its policy of bringing India on board to serve its interests. Defence Minister A.K.Antony has been summoned to Washington to discuss the big ticket items, that will include the 126 aircraft deal and the logistics initiative that the Left had been able to stall till now. The white wash has a habit of peeling away and it will not be long before even the most ardent supporters of the nuclear deal realize the extent and scope of the strategic sell out. The Prime Ministers visit to Washington next month will take this forward, to the post deal partnership.
The government, at US behest, has again gone silent on the Iran gas pipeline. The Iranians are looking at other options. One such serious option that is being voiced by government advisors in Tehran is to scrap this pipeline project altogether and divert the supplies to gas hungry Europe. This alternative is finding new supporters in Iran, with pressure mounting on the government to distance itself from India.
Prime Minister Singh will certainly go down in history. As the politician who sold India's strategic sovereignty to the US.

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