Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Left's Chimera

We have maintained from the very outset, that the Left alone has opposed the nuclear deal based on a coherent principle, though wrong-headed. However their opposition is so wrong-headed and blinkered that they are seriously endangering our national interest. The Left sees US as a major negative force in global politics and have hence opposed the nuclear deal because it will help bring India and the US closer together. The politburo statement of August 18 and the Left parties statement of August 7 make that clear.

Serving Chinese interests

This does not mean that the statement and the positions are well reasoned, they are not. They are a mishmash of blinkered ideological rants and cynically argued half-baked positions, some are not even based on fact. One lamentable conclusion does come through—the CPI(M) is not really concerned by India’s national interest, its idea of national interest is so distorted that it usually ends up serving China’s national interest. This is the Chinese take on the nuclear deal:

“Judging from the (Indo-US 123 Agreement) text, however, the US has made big concessions and met almost all Indian requests, including full supply of nuclear fuel to India and allowing it to dispose nuclear waste. India's right to continue conducting nuclear testing will depend on "circumstances". According to the text, if India can satisfactorily justify its nuclear testing, the US would acquiesce. That is, Washington has actually acknowledged India's right to retain nuclear testing......

....It is quite obvious that the US generosity in helping India develop nuclear energy is partly due to its hegemony idea, which made it regardless of others' opinions, and partly due to the intention of drawing India in as a tool for its global strategic pattern.” (“Prospects of Indian-US nuclear cooperation misty,” People’s Daily Online August 14, 2007)

So even the Chinese concede we have a good deal, even though they are clear that they don't like it.

Hyde Act Red Herring

Critics in the Left and the right are making a deliberate attempt to insinuate the Hyde Act into the deal. This act is US domestic legislation and binds the US Administration. The Bush team believes that the 123 Agreement it negotiated with India meets all the requirements of the act. There is a simple principle of international law, enshrined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties, that an international agreement always trumps domestic legislation. Article 16 (4) of the Indo-US 123 Agreement notes, “This Agreement shall be implemented in good faith and in accordance with the principles of international law.” While the US and India have not ratified that convention, both have operationally abided by it because it codifies customary international law. International diplomacy would become infructous if states began to cite domestic law to overwhelm their international commitments. Article 27 of the treaty notes, " A party may not invoke an internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty. "

Misreading the documents

August 7 statement: “Serious concern had been expressed by the Left Parties about various conditions inserted into the Hyde Act passed by the US Congress. A number of them pertain to areas outside nuclear co-operation and are attempts to coerce India to accept the strategic goals of the United States. These issues are:

· Annual certification and reporting to the US Congress by the President on a variety of foreign policy issues such as India’s foreign policy being “congruent to that of the United States” and more specifically India joining US efforts in isolating and even sanctioning Iran [Section 104g(2) E(i)]

· Indian participation and formal declaration of support for the US’ highly controversial Proliferation Security Initiative including the illegal policy of interdiction of vessels in international waters [Section 104g(2) K]

· India conforming to various bilateral/multilateral agreements to which India is not currently a signatory such as the US’ Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group etc [Section 104c E,F,G]”

Are the US strategic goals towards India merely those ? All that one can see here is an effort to serve the Iranian and North Korean national interest, as well as that of any country that wishes to make missiles, chemical and nuclear weapons.

August 7 statement: “The termination clause is wide ranging and does not limit itself to only violation of the agreement as a basis for cessation or termination of the contract. Therefore, these extraneous provisions of the Hyde Act could be used in the future to terminate the 123 Agreement. In such an eventuality, India would be back to complete nuclear isolation, while accepting IAEA safeguards in perpetuity. Therefore, the argument that provisions of the Hyde Act do not matter and only 123 clauses do, are misplaced.”

My reading is that the termination issues are just two 1. a unilateral resumption of Indian nuclear tests (which incidentally is only implied and not mentioned in the Indo-US 123) and 2. As per the 123 Agreement’s Article XIV Section 3 which says the agreement will be at an end if India materially breaches the IAEA safeguards agreement. The article goes on to note that what constitutes the material breach will not be decided by the US, but the IAEA Board of Governors. What could be fairer and more reasonable ?

What it is all about

Why beat about the bush (pun unintended) and deconstruct a confused and confusing argument. Let’s ask the straightforward question : Does the US have an agenda in pushing the nuclear deal? Of course it does.

But that’s not quite the same thing as accepting that India will slavishly serve that agenda. What it will do, is what it has always done-- utilize the opportunity to move its own agenda forward. India has its own agenda and sees in the present global conjuncture an opportunity to strengthen its own position relative to the major powers.

What is remarkable about the Left’s self-view of India is as to how weak they think the country is. India with its nuclear-tipped armed forces, 8 per cent plus growth rate and burgeoning foreign exchange reserves has never been stronger than before. It has beaten back the challenge of US-led containment, as well as its most dangerous internal insurgencies. India may have been amenable to US tuition thrice in its history—when we became free and were reeling from the effects of partition, in 1962 when our forces were defeated by the Chinese and in 1991 when our economy crashed. But a glance back at all the instances will show that the Americans did not display and particular interest in “taking over” India. An India run from Washington is a chimera of the Left’s creation.

The only loophole I can see for the continuation of the Left's support for the United Progressive Alliance government is the paragraph four of the August 18 statement which notes,

“Till all the objections are considered and the implications of the Hyde Act evaluated, the government should not take the next step with regard to negotiating a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

If the CPI(M) is willing to go through the motions of having these considered, it could raise its objections. The government has no doubt considered the implications of the Hyde Act. To suggest otherwise is to believe that the Manmohan Singh government, its negotiators and top nuclear scientists like Anil Kakodkar are working as agents of the US. But given the Left’s demonology anything is possible.

Incidentally, whose game is the CPI(M) playing by insisting that the deal be stopped before going to its logical stage? That is the point we will get an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Once that happens, India will be able to make deals with countries like France and Russia who will not insist on the kind of conditionalities that are there in the Indo-US 123 Agreement. Again, incidentally, the US will give us in writing that it will not insist on a Right of Return clause in any NSG agreement.

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