After days of endless discussions, debates and heated arguments, the 123 agreement, lovingly christened as “the Nuke Deal”, remains as unresolved as it was on March, 2006 when President of the United States, Mr. George Bush first announced his intention of nuclear cooperation during his visit to India.
The thirty page document crafted by the American and the Indian experts over a period of four days of incessant work promises a civil nuclear cooperation between the two nations. Dr. Manmohan Singh, in defense of the deal, has argued that the deal refers only to civilian nuclear cooperation and has nothing mentioned regarding the military nuclear development by India. For this purpose, 14 out of India’s 22 nuclear reactors have to be open for inspection to US experts and the technology provided by the US can not be directed towards military programmes or exported to other nations without prior US consent.
On the other hand, the fuel should be used to generate clean energy and hike the power available to India by 20,000 MW. To a country as energy consuming yet starved as India, this additional energy is not merely a viable option, but is a necessity. India has already been given the assurance of being converted from one of the largest energy consumers to one of the biggest powerhouses in the field of engineering and technology through this deal. Some have claimed that US wants to develop India potential counterweight to Power pillars like China.
However, this deal does not fail to make everyone reminisce the dark days of Tarapur Incident in 1978 when US had backed out of a similar agreement because India conducted the Pokhran tests and proved that it is a possessor of nuclear weaponry. Although the prime minister has repeatedly assured the public as well as the left parties that US President Bush will waiver any such dire action if it does occur, the opposing parties remain assailed with doubts.
This is merely one of the several causes of concern regarding the nuclear deal. If 123 agreement does take place, various detractors feel that the American Hyde act(regarding energy technology) will prevail over the national laws of India. Moreover, the decision to stop supplying nuclear technology will lie in the hands of the US. The pressure being put on the UPA to get this agreement in motion as quickly as possible has also left the opposing parties dissatisfied. The Bush regime wants this agreement to be complete while they continue in power, but the left party leader has protested that the US may in a hurry but India is not. The opposition has warned the ruling government of the worst consequences India may have to face if we agree to this agreement without adequate time devoted to it. On the other side, the congress has claimed that time is being given to seek everyone’s opinion and there is no need to submit to the left parties’ demand of withholding the 123 agreement for the next six months.
This is not the only protests put forth by the opposing parties. In absence of the complete document being revealed, speculations are rife whether India will continue to stay away from being a member of the non proliferation treaty, and even more significantly, remain a part of the non aligned movement. People think that the increasing “comfort” with US can act as deterrent in case of our relationship with China and Russia. Both these nations are uncomfortable with the idea of nuclear power deal between India and the US. There is a fear that the already fragile ties with these power houses may deteriorate if the 123 agreement is passed. The Left party, in a recent meeting, contended that the agreement will be shaped on the focal point of the Hyde act, and India will be forced into a subservient position with regards to the deal. This viewpoint has been severely criticized for those who are lobbying in favour of the deal and has been dismissed as a “political act” and “prejudice against America”.
However, it is not only the left parties whose favour has to be won by the UPA Government. The congress has to negotiate a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and then gain support of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to conduct nuclear trade with us. The US delegates, especially the assistant undersecretary to State, Mr. Richard Boucher is prepared to address the NSG as soon as India furthers conversation with the IAEA. The congress regime instead is fighting for support within the political parties before it can proceed with dialogue with the IAEA. Till now, every UPA-Left panel discussion has resulted only in prolonged arguments and there is no silver lining of any conclusion or consensus being reached. Amidst the raised voices of the detractors in protest, and the Bush regime in urgency, The UPA government is left helpless like the public who is once again forced to be the unheard spectator watching the political pandemonium.