Friday, July 11, 2008

The Left's Stand is Exposed Again

Check out today’s excellent article by Siddharth Varadarajan on the nuclear deal. Well-written, point of fact and methodical, it properly examines the key aspects of the deal. Why he calls this a ‘self-goal’ by the UPA is not clear given that concerns previously voiced have either been met or are covered by provisions that allow future agreements to meet them. Also, Karat’s statement today should lay to rest any doubts anyone might have had that the failure to bring around the Left was attributable to the government’s unwillingness to release the text of the draft agreement.

“It did not take much for us to study the safeguards agreement. There is nothing unexpected in it and we asked the government not to go ahead with it because it is one step forward in operationalising the 123 Agreement,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat told journalists at a press conference.

“As a result of operationalizing the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal, India will place its costly imported reactors under perpetual IAEA safeguards and risk their permanent shutdown in case it fails to toe the U.S. line on foreign policy issues,” a joint statement by the general secretaries of the CPI(M), the CPI, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India said.

Obviously neither of these contentions has anything to do with the text of the agreement and could not conceivably have been addressed by its release. Why then is such a fuss being made about approaching the IAEA in haste? Especially now that the confidence vote is expected to take place before the meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors, it is hard to view this as anything more than a propaganda effort to discredit the government.


Anonymous said...

look at how karat still links his opposition to to 'foreign policy'. Per Hyde act, the restrictions imposed are proliferation/nuclear test related. The communists do not want india to be a nuclear weapon state, so nuclear testing is not an issue for them. In the immediate context, the 'foreign policy' is a euphemism to say India should not oppose Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. With or without the, a bunch of mullahs in iran with n.weapons is not in india's interest.

why doesn't someone call their bluff on this foreign policy crap?

Pilid said...


The Congress party ought to have called the Communists' bluff but why they have not done it is anybody's guess. The Congress does have articulate people who have not chosen to stand up most likely for fear of antagonizing the latter who were necessary for their survival previously and who they continue to see as potential allies in a post-election scenario. The trouble with all the pussyfooting is that the other side of the issue is rarely revealed and the one-sided propaganda gains all the publicity with the result that public perception is irretrievably altered against the government rendering all the caution a self-defeating political exercise. When Veerappa Moily candidly admitted in a Frontline interview that the Congress party had lost rather than gained, the reason is not hard to find.

Here, the communists are for the Iran deal but because the PM, no less, has categorically assured anyone who cared to ask that his government was committed to it, the former have not been able to raise that bogey. The Hyde Act does have provisions laying down the policy that the administration is expected to follow with respect to India and it does include, as the opposition points out, the provision that 'the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report assessment of whether India is fully and actively participating in United States and international efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear weapons capability (including the capability to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear fuel), and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction, including a description of the specific measures that India has taken in this regard...'. What is important to recognize (and the government has failed to point this out entirely) is that virtually every sovereign country that you deal with will seek to persuade you to support and act in your interests. That includes China, Russia and every European country with which we have relations. There are many examples of India making important concessions to appease other countries. For example, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan, India refused to condemn the invasion (disappointing western powers in the process) for the obvious reason that we had a strong relationship with the Soviet Union. Th US insistence that India ought to toe its line on Iran is therefore neither surprising nor new, the only difference being that in the US system, Congress openly lays down the foreign policy goals that the administration is required to adopt and abide by unlike in most other countries where such questions are largely left to the Executive branch to handle. It is for India, in the ordinary course of the diplomatic relationship, to manage these policy interests of various countries - the US demand on Iran included - in light of its own policy priorities. The Congress party, instead of pointing out this perfectly reasonable fact, has chosen instead to prevaricate claiming that the Hyde Act will be overriden by the Congressional approval of the deal and will therefore not apply. This palpably false claim can only come back to haunt the party and the government in the future.

If the problem is a communist perception that India might be too willing to give in to American demands, it could be easily corrected by introducing legislation in parliament laying down parameters of Indian policy not unlike what the US congress has done. This is what Advani has suggested and is eminently doable even in the face of the government's explicit reluctance (the government is obviously lukewarm to the idea because it would reduce its own flexibility).

Anonymous said...

Mr Anon,
Very well articulated. Mr. Advani has been suggesting the same. But the Government chose to ignore. Teh Government should have taken on board the principal opposition party in this matter rather than trying to placate the Left.

R said...

“As a result of operationalizing the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal, India will place its costly imported reactors under perpetual IAEA safeguards and risk their permanent shutdown in case it fails to toe the U.S. line on foreign policy issues,”

It seems China has signed a not-so-good nuclear deal with the US and they have started the process of importing reactors as a result of their 123 agreement. (see the following link)

I wonder what's the stand of the left parties here ? Do they think China will be toeing "U. S line on foreign policy issues" as result of this ?

Pilid said...

Thanks for the comment Anon #2.


I remember reading somewhere the Left's response regarding the Chinese deal that they believe it is still better than India's because it safeguards their sovereignity as against the Indian one. The claim is perhaps based on a clause (quoted in the article you linked to but somewhat differently worded actually) which specifically says that the provisions of the treaty will override any domestic law to the contrary. India asked for a similar provision in its own agreement but the US was averse to it saying that it would be struck down by Congress and as a result, the final 123 agreement does not contain any such provision (though the US did insist that it would act in accordance with the agreement in good faith). I suppose the Left will wriggle out of the question you ask based on this distinction as also the fact that China being a permanent member of the Security Council and superior to us in economic and military terms, the two countries are in different leagues and cannot therefore be compared (Ram has made such an argument before).

In truth, it perhaps does not matter whether such a clause exists or not - the decisions to abide by any agreement or not is largely a political decision and if the US wants to end its relationship, notwithstanding such technicalities, it will find a way to wriggle out of it. However, as Siddharth Varadarajan points out, to make up for this so-called deficiency, a provision has been inserted in the IAEA safeguards agreement to that effect.

What critics have generally done is to compare provisions of the India-US 123 agreement to both the US-China and US-Japan agreement and point out what is lacking in our own agreement based on one of these two (it is generally pointed out that our own agreement lies somewhere between these two). Whether the weaknesses will necessarily affect our rights is debatable even if they imply a lower US obligation towards us. I have not seen a lot of specifics being articulated in this regard by the Left, so I do not know if they too share all of these concerns.

As regards the paragraph you point out, Varadarajan has given the correct answers - yes, they will be under perpetual safeguards as per the requirements of the IAEA and with our concurrence but no, they will not have to be shut down if we do not toe the US line because of (a) the stockpile we will have (b) options for securing fuel from other countries that will remain and (c) the air tight nature of the agreements that are expected to be executed before these power plants are put in place something along the lines of the Kudunkulam agreement.

Hindu Fundamentalist said...

thanks r for the link and pilid for your interesting comments.

the left gives the following reason for opposing the deal:

"It is clear that the text was hidden from the Left Parties and the Indian people in order to suppress the fact that India is about to bind its entire civilian nuclear energy programme into IAEA safeguards in perpetuity without getting concrete assurances for uninterrupted fuel supply, right to build strategic reserves and right to take corrective steps in case fuel supplies are stopped."

from whatever info we have at the moment, the left seems to be fabricating reasons and as usual shouting from the roof top. the real reasons for opposition are different. it could be because india is getting a better deal than china, although i think that the comparison itself is irrelevant. left will have to fight congress in its key constituencies of wb and kerala. opting out of the government will give it some ammunition for electoral battles.

Pilid said...


I agree that realpolitik considerations were probably central to the communist opposition to the nuclear deal. I found K.Subramanyam's view on this very interesting.

R said...

Pilid, thanks for your interesting comments.


left will have to fight congress in its key constituencies of wb and kerala. opting out of the government will give it some ammunition for electoral battles.

I agree; but i thought the left would do it in the name of price rise, which is more a "people's issue"(likely to fetch votes). But the fact that they have chosen to withdraw support on the N. deal and not on the price rise shows the influence of their Chinese bosses. More than votes, "fund" from the Chinese matters i guess :-)