Friday, October 3, 2008

1 - 2 - 3... IT'S A DEAL!

My consistent support for the Indo-US Nuclear Deal had a commentator on my previous post accusing me of writing "a load of partisan garbage" and putting "party and idol worship ahead of country".

For once, I am proud to be so accused, now that the deal has finally cleared the last hurdle in the US, paving the way for signing of the 123 Agreement between India and the US within the next few days. All the dramatic twists and turns, the strong opposition that the deal faced both in the US and at the NSG meetings, and the reactions of our principal adversaries, China and Pakistan, should leave thinking Indians in no doubt that India has got for itself a game-changing deal that will put it in a different strategic league besides bringing in enormous economic and technology benefits.

The naysayers need to answer one simple question: what has India lost due to the deal that it had till now? It has nothing now, except the theoretical right to test a nuke bomb as a pariah state that has been living with debilitating sanctions for 34 years. What will it get due to the deal? It is going to get nuclear reactors from all countries that have the technology to build them; dual use technology will also be made available; Indian companies will over time get large orders to build and operate nuclear power plants; India will retain the right to enrich uranium for making bombs; its facilities already involved in the weapons program will remain closed to inspection as will new such facilities that India will build in the future. All this without signing the NPT or the CTBT.

What does India lose by signing the deal? Don't buy the partisan horse shit that the commies and the BJP are throwing around to attack the Prime Minister through it. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat can do little better than call the deal "a complete surrender" to the US. So pathological is his hatred for capitalist US that he is completely blinded to the possibility of any good coming India's way from that country. That is just what the communist Chinese would expect from their "belly up" ideological comrades who take great pride in sounding more 'Chinese' than communist!

The BJP, which has covered itself with the slimy grime of partisan dishonesty and political pettiness, says that it will not hesitate to conduct another nuclear test "if the security situation and and scientific research needs so required" and that it will renegotiate the deal if it comes to power. What exactly it will renegotiate to make the deal an 'equal' deal is left either hazily vague or is indirectly addressed by criticising specific provisions related to the freedom to conduct nuclear tests in future.

Let us face one simple truth which has almost completely been ignored in this whole debate. India lost the 'right' to be recognised as a full-fledged nuclear weapon power state in the sixties itself. When China exploded its first bomb in 1964, India had the technological capability to respond, like Pakistan did when India exploded five bombs in 1998. But at that time, instead of taking that vital step to match China and force its way by right into the exclusive club, India was actually busy deflecting that challenge by mounting the weak and meek and moralistic non-proliferation horse and actually proposing an NPT!

As a result, it missed the January 1, 1967, deadline for exploding a nuke to be recognised as a member of that club that China had cleverly joined. So, when Indira Gandhi responded 10 years too late and pretended that Pokhran 1 was "a peaceful nuclear explosion", nobody bought that story and India's nuclear apartheid and membership of the large group of small, insignificant nations officially began.

Given this background and the prevailing global security situation where the dangers from nuclear proliferation are real and grave, it is nothing short of stupidity that can make anyone believe that India can be straightaway given a blank nuclear cheque when all others are denied even a small break - even if the US and a few others are convinced that India deserves and needs it. Despite that, what is the only real conditionality placed on India? If India unilaterally tests a nuclear bomb, there will be a review of the agreement and nuclear fuel supplies might be stopped.

After the blasts in 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had publicly declared a unilateral moratorium on testing. Note that this was without getting anything in return. After the deal, that state continues, but with a big nuclear ticket in hand. Testing without the deal was impractical and the sanctions were hurting India. Testing after the deal is actually possible, should China or Pakistan do so, or under some other justifiable circumstances, without attracting any penalty if the US and others agree that the test is needed to meet India's genuine security requirements.

One can argue about whether the US will agree at all and that submitting to such a conditionality is compromising India's sovereignty. But before you do that, find an Indian leader who could have got you a better deal. Also ask whether it was in India's interest to remain in the state that it has been since 1964. It will then be crystal clear that should the BJP come to power after the forthcoming election, it will do little more than offer crafty explanations for living with this deal after making nominal efforts to 'renegotiate' it!

Just a few months back, many analysts had declared the deal dead, given the tremendous partisan political opposition it faced and their personal disposition towards Dr Manmohan Singh. Some media luminaries had, in fact, lambasted him for spoiling the 'malai'(cream) of greedy politicians due to his single-minded determination to push the deal by forcing a premature election, even though 'inflation was high'. For months he also braved their vicious barb that having never won an election in his life, he had no right to take away the comfort and 'perks' of power away from those who had.

To Dr Manmohan Singh what mattered most all through was the future of India; to many others what mattered was their individual present. By unwaveringly sticking to his vision, the PM has displayed the highest standards of leadership and the practical application of the ideal that, to the nation's leader, the country must always come first. In the process, he has secured his place in history as one of the great Prime Ministers of India. That was never his motivation, as a few small minds, unable to get out of muck of daily petty politics, had been alleging possibly to deflect him from his focus.

With this deal, Dr Manmohan Singh has nearly won back for India the nuclear 'war' it had lost timidly in 1964 to China. 44 years after that monumental defeat, and 34 years after India became a nuclear pariah, he has managed to recover for India almost all the ground it had lost thanks to a fudgy, moralistic and spineless world view not befitting a big country. The minor irritant of conditionality on future testing is actually a small price to pay for the benefits that will accrue to India in its efforts to claim its rightful place at the high table of world powers. Economically too there will be enormous benefits. According to one estimate, the deal will be worth $500 billion over the next 30 years.

Whichever way you look at it after putting down tinted glasses, the clear picture that emerges is that India has got a rare second shot to keep its tryst with destiny that it had all but missed decades ago. And for that, Dr Manmohan Singh deserves undiluted credit in full.