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വിജി പിണറായി


Viji Pinarayi

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(My personal views / comments on contemporary issues)
ആനുകാലിക സംഭവങ്ങളെക്കുറിച്ചുള്ള എന്റെ പ്രതികരണങ്ങള്‍ / അഭിപ്രായങ്ങള്‍



The Indo - US Nuclear Deal - An Outsider's Analysis

 Saturday, 20 June 2008

 The 'Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of India Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy' (Also known as the '123 Agreement') is the single most debated - about issue in the contemporary political scenario in India. The issue has assumed so high a level of importance that the very existence of the present UPA coalition government of the country is dependent on what course it will take in the matter. While the Congress party that heads the ruling front seems to be adamant on going ahead with striking the deal, the Left Front parties led by the CPI (M) whose support is vital for the government to continue in power are die - hard opponents of such a move. Even as the US Government is pressing for the implementation of the deal before the impending Presidential elections, the virtual stalemate continues to reign over the political scenario of the country.

Given the importance of the matter, it is only natural that the general public of the country would be eager to learn about the exact nature and implications of the deal. However, none of the political parties - neither those favouring the deal nor those opposing - has taken the pains of presenting the people with a clear, exact picture of the issue. While those supporting the deal try to project a (apparently exaggerated) rosy picture of the country's future supported by the benefits of the agreement, the opponents predict disastrous after - effects including the loss of political sovereignty of the country, whereas neither of these lines seem to be decisively convincing enough, because neither side cares to present a clear and complete picture of both sides of the coin. By this article, I am making an attempt to achieve this goal by analysing the pros and cons of the agreement and its 'accessories'.

The Background:

Any study of Indian nuclear development programme has to start with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). As more and more countries started developing nuclear programmes (and weapons), the 'super powers' identified the potential dangers underlying this uncontrolled build-up of arsenal and started chalking out plans to curtail this potential hazard. The NPT was hatched as the solution to this problem while protecting the interests of its proponents. The Treaty promised its signatories access to nuclear technology meant for civilian purposes (generation of power), while preventing them from developing nuclear weapons. (This restriction, however, is NOT applicable to the so - called 'super powers' who had already developed nuclear weapons before 1967 - they are free to build up on their nuclear weapons stockpile without any restrictions whatsoever...!) India who had maintained a 'neutral stand' in the Power Equation, adopting a 'non - aligned' policy distancing itself from the super - powers, did not endorse the Treaty. The country's stand was that instead of addressing the central objective of universal and comprehensive nuclear disarmament, the treaty creates an elite club of 'nuclear haves' and a much larger group of 'nuclear have - nots', which amounts to blatant partiality and discrimination. The treaty, in effect, means that the 'haves' can continue to build up more and more threats to the world while the 'have - nots' must remain at the mercy of the super - powers. There is no explanation as to on what grounds such a distinction is valid. Given this scenario, the country's decision not to sign the Treaty was the only correct choice whereby the interests of the Country are not undermined.

Remaining outside the purview of the NPT, India went ahead with its nuclear programme and succeeded in conducting its first nuclear test in 1974. The USA was obviously 'unhappy' over this development. The result was the setting up of a group of nuclear capable countries, named 'Nuclear Suppliers Group' having exclusive powers to control exports of nuclear material, equipment and technology and restrictions on India acquiring the same. These sanctions did pull the country's nuclear programme back by a few years. However, these roadblocks were not sufficient to stall the wagon. India continued its nuclear programme while observing a self - imposed control by way of adopting a 'no first use' policy, and went on to conduct five more nuclear tests in May 1998. Pakistan followed suite almost immediately. As expected, the USA (who, by then, had acquired the status of 'World super-cop') retaliated by imposing more stringent sanctions.

However, it was clear from the very outset that the situation was not going to be the same as before. The political scenario over the world had undergone a sea of changes. Asia was no exception either. The major forces of the region had grown to greater heights. China was growing by leaps and bounds, and neither India nor Pakistan could be treated as 'pariahs' any more. And there was much more to come. The infamous '9/11' changed the world like never before. The 'war on terror' declared by the US, combined with the operations of the Al - Quaeda - Taliban bases in Afghanistan meant, among nay other things, that the US can't sideline India and Pakistan any more. Moreover, US couldn't have turned a blind eye towards the growth of China as a challenging super power in the region.

Under the changing political scenario, the US started looking towards India as a potential ally in the region. The then Government of India (led by the BJP) that also viewed China as a greater threat than Pakistan also started signs of drifting towards a pro - US stand, shedding the decades - long non - aligned status. The Governments of both countries started moves aimed at increasing cooperation rather than conflict. Among the possibilities contemplated were closer and greater cooperation on the military as well as nuclear fronts in addition to economic cooperation. Moves were afoot to sideline the sanctions and make India an 'important strategic ally' in the US - sponsored 'war on terrorism'. Meanwhile, the next round of general elections in India led to more changes in the political scenario within the country. The BJP was voted out of power, and the opposition led by the Congress (I) returned to power after a five - year gap. However, this return had a crucial difference from the earlier victories for the Congress - It was not enjoying power on its own strength. Instead of the Congress (I) as a single party, it was a coalition - the UPA - that formed the Government, that too, with the support of the CPI(M) - led Left Front that had come up as the third largest force in the Parliament.

The Left Front was well - known for its strong reservations against the US and the pro - liberal, pro - globalization economic policies the US had proposed and had been pressing for and the Congress had adopted almost a decade back, when Mr. Manmohan Singh holding the chair as Finance Minister. And it was the very same Mr. Manmohan Singh who was heading the new Government. Given this scenario, it was sure that the Government won't be able to go ahead unhindered with its pro - US policies. The Left parties would surely play their best to stall any move by the Government in this direction. (And they did succeed in many, if not most, of their attempts.) However, the dependence on Left parties was not enough to force the government to put the alliance with the US in the back - burner. The Government went ahead with its dialogues with its US counterpart aiming at forging a closer and stronger alliance, especially in the military and nuclear fronts. The sequence of manoeuvres, started with the 'Next Steps in Strategic Partnership' (NSSP) initiative that was launched in January 2004, reached its first crucial turning point on 18 July 2005 as the US President, Mr. George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh issued a Joint Statement endorsing closer and stronger cooperation between the countries to 'establish a global partnership'. The statement stressed, along with many other matters, the establishment of 'New Framework for US - India Defence Relationship as a basis for future cooperation' and commitment towards joint efforts to prevent proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It also resolved to 'strengthen energy security and promote the development of stable and efficient energy markets in India', to be dealt with further by bilateral Energy Dialogue, with specific stress to nuclear energy. President Bush said that India should be entitled to 'the same benefits and advantages' enjoyed by other countries in possession of advanced nuclear technology. He also assured to work towards achieving 'full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India'. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reciprocated by assuring India's willingness to assume the 'same responsibilities and practices' (including separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities and placing the civilian nuclear plants under the safeguards prescribed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA) similar to other countries with advanced nuclear technology, to continue the self - imposed moratorium on nuclear tests, to sign and adhere to an Additional Protocol with respect to civilian nuclear facilities. Further, the Prime Minister also agreed that India would work with the US towards setting up a 'Fissile Material Cut - off Treaty' (FMCT) and adhere to the US - proposed Missile Technology Control Regime and guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group as precursors to achieving the proposed 'full civil nuclear cooperation'. This Joint Statement, thus, effectively formed the foundation for the 'Indo - US Nuclear Deal' that is in question.

Right from the beginning, it was evident that the road ahead won't be comfortable, let alone smooth, for the proposed nuclear cooperation. Whereas the Left Front's opposition to any move aimed at establishing strategic ties with the US was a foregone conclusion, many assurances the Prime Minister had given to the US were indigestible even to those who are not so die - hard against cooperation with the US. Even as the Prime Minister and his party projected the proposed alliance with US as the greatest landmark in the path towards building India as the next 'Asian super - power', they were greeted with strong opposition not only from the Left front and the opposition parties but also from some of their allies, prompting the Prime Minister to give a clarification statement in the Parliament on 29th July 2005 - eleven days after the Joint Statement - stating that the proposed cooperation would assure full access to nuclear technology and won't affect India's strategic nuclear programme or other matters of national interest.

Since the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954 imposed restrictions on US Government in sharing nuclear technology with other countries, it was necessary that a new law be enacted to exempt the proposed nuclear cooperation agreement from the relevant provisions under the Act. On 3rd January 2006, the new law - 'Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006' - referred to as the 'Hyde Act' - was presented in the US Congress and was subsequently adopted by the House of Representatives on 26th July and by the Senate on 16th November, thereby ratifying the proposed deal. The Act was later signed into law by the President on 18th December. With the provisions of the Hyde Act coming to light, even before its formal adoption by the US Congress, opposition to the proposed deal grew stronger in India as many of the clauses under the Act were viewed by the opponents as detrimental to the interests of the nation. The Prime Minister intervened again, with another statement on the floor of the Parliament on February 27, 2006, reiterating his earlier assurances. Even as it became evident that at least some allies of the ruling front had differences of opinion on the proposed deal, the Government went ahead on its commitment and listed out the country's nuclear power plants that will be classified as 'civilian' and will be placed under the IAEA - proposed safeguards. During the subsequent visit by President Bush to India, on 2 March 2007, the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between US and India was signed, paving way for the '123 Agreement' the negotiations for which were concluded on July 27, 2007. The full text of the Agreement was released on 3 August 2007. (The agreement is referred to as '123 Agreement' because the deal is made in accordance with Sec. 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act.)

(The US Law requires that any such agreements the US Government proposes to enter into must be ratified by the Parliament, whereas there is no such requirement in case of India. Hence, neither the Agreement nor other relevant details were officially placed before the Indian Parliament.)

EXAMINATION OF THE CASE - ARGUMENTS AGAINST AND IN FAVOUR

Having thrown some light on the developments that led to the Agreement, now let me proceed to examine the pros and cons of the Agreement by presenting the arguments in favour as well as against and then counter - examining them against each other.

THE CASE IN FAVOUR:

The arguments of the proponents of the deal revolve around two aspects: First, the need for greater cooperation with the US in the light of the changed political and economic equations prevalent in today's world. The second, and more important, is the question of energy security.

1. Need for greater and closer cooperation with the US: The greatest threat faced by India over the six decades since independence is, undoubtedly, terrorism - terrorism from across the borders. India have always been targeted by terrorist outfits, be it the self - proclaimed 'Jihadi outfits' operating on the Kashmir soil or the Sikh terrorist groups that turned Punjab and surroundings a virtual graveyard; may it be the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) or the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) which are brewing terror in the North East or the LTTE from across the southern seas. Since the infamous 9/11 attacks, the US also have identified the need for exploring every possible route to fight elements of terror. Being the target of the biggest terrorist attack of all times, the US can be the best possible ally in India's own war against cross - border terrorism.

Further to the counter-terrorism angle, the other major aspect that advocates cooperation with the US is the 'China Factor'. India can't afford to ignore the threat posed by China for not one, but two reasons: one, China is extending helping hand to Pakistan in military as well as nuclear fronts, which can cause headache for India in Kashmir. Moreover, China's own claims and activities over the North Eastern region is the cause for greater troubles for us. Considering these factors, it is necessary that China should be prevented from emerging as the sole dominant power in Asia, which would be impossible without the assistance from a powerful external ally. Thus, taking the US into confidence and building closer Indo - US relationship would be the best choice for India strategically.

2. Energy Security: India's requirement of power has been growing by leaps and bounds over the years. The growth of population as well as the country's growth in the economic front that has resulted in the emergence of more and more industrial establishments that guzzle up the country's power resources. Right now, many states are facing acute power shortage and are forced to impose power cuts even in major cities. If the present condition itself is so bad, it won't require great brains to deduce the much greater problems that await us in near future. We can't be over - dependent on thermal power plants that run on irreplaceable natural fuels like coal and petroleum, especially considering the ever - growing costs of crude oil, the highly volatile political scenario in the Middle East and, moreover, ecological issues. Thus, the best alternative, and hence the natural and unavoidable choice, is nuclear power. Moreover, traditional sources of power won't be able to ensure a sustained supply of energy output in the long run. On the other hand, nuclear power is such an enormous source that can cater to our growing demands virtually endlessly. Thus, it can be concluded beyond doubt that India's future lies in nuclear power.

Given that nuclear power is India's choice for the future and the fact that India has a very poor reserve of Uranium, the fuel for nuclear plants, and that we are lagging behind in terms of nuclear technology, it is vital for our future that we must get the fuel and the best available technology from elsewhere. Here is where the Indo - US nuclear deal comes into play. The US has offered a 'golden opportunity' to India to secure its future in terms of energy requirements. The deal would mean that India will no longer be treated as 'pariahs' in the nuclear front. The country would be recognized as a responsible nuclear - capable State and can enjoy the benefits and advantages shared by other nuclear powers, like access to the latest technology and, more importantly, an uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel. This will, in turn, ensure that India will have an ample supply of power to fully satiate its requirements for many more years ahead. Further, the deal would be viewed by the world as a recognition of our excellent records in imposing voluntary safeguards on nuclear facilities and observing non - proliferation, prompting other nuclear powers also to cooperate with India and further secure the energy demand - supply balance for us.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST:

Even as the proponents of the deal came up with convincing - looking arguments in favour of the deal and put up all - out efforts to push the deal through, opposition to the deal kept building up. Opposition came from two different quarters, on different grounds. The opposition parties under the banner of the NDA led by the BJP opposed the deal saying that the conditions under the agreement would undermine India's strategic nuclear programme. (In other words, the opposition of the BJP and allies was against the restrictions imposed on the nuclear front only, and not any other issues, political or otherwise.) On the other hand, the Left Front raised objections on somewhat more ethical grounds, pointing out that the US is offering the deal with a view to involve India in its politically motivated 'imperialistic' agenda, including dictating terms regarding what policies India should follow / adopt regarding many controversial issues. Put differently, the Left Parties' opposition to the deal is based on the alleged surrendering of political freedom - freedom to adopt independent policies in matters whatsoever - while the opposition by the BJP and allies (who were the original proponents of the deal) is based on the surrender of nuclear freedom - the freedom to carry on the strategic nuclear programme.

A closer look at the opposition to the deal reveals that most of the opposition is NOT towards the deal as such, but against the many 'accessory preconditions' hidden within the deal and other relevant laws, especially the Hyde Act. The major arguments raised against the deal can be summarized as follows:

1. Hyde Act - the 'Real Villain': The very adoption of the 123 Agreement is facilitated by the Hyde Act - the Act that provides the necessary exemption to the deal from the requirements under the US Atomic Energy Act. Further, Article 2.1 of the 123 Agreement clarifies that the deal shall be implemented in accordance with the International Treaties as applicable and the respective national laws of the parties involved - i.e., US and India. Given that India doesn't have any law that deals with such agreements, this, in effect, implies that the deal will be implemented in accordance with the provisions under the Hyde Act, many of which are unacceptable from India's point of view. These include a 'Sense of Congress' clause that 'it is in the interest of the United States to enter into an agreement for nuclear cooperation arranged pursuant to section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act... with a country that has never been a State Party to the NPT if the country has a functioning and uninterrupted democratic system of government, has a foreign policy that is congruent to that of the United States, and is working with the United States on key foreign policy initiatives"; repeated references to ensuring India's cooperation in dealing with Iran - the requirement that the US (Government) shall "Secure India’s full and active participation in United States 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 and the capability to enrich uranium or reprocess nuclear fuel, and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction" (Sec. 103 (b) (4)); That the "President shall determine that India and the IAEA have concluded all legal steps required prior to signature by the parties of an agreement requiring the application of IAEA safeguards in perpetuity in accordance with IAEA standards, principles, and practices..." (Sec. 104 (b) (2)); That the "President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report including an estimate of the amount of uranium mined and milled in India during the previous year; the amount of such uranium that has likely been used or allocated for the production of nuclear explosive devices; and the rate of production in India of fissile material for nuclear explosive devices; and nuclear explosive devices." (Sec. 104 (H) (i) - (iii)).

The 'Sense of Congress' clause is unacceptable because it has direct implication on our Foreign Policy. It demands that US can enter into the agreement provided India's foreign policy is 'congruent to that of' the US - or, in other words, India must re-draft its foreign policy to align it along the policies of the US. This is, in effect, demanding that we should surrender our right to decide our policies to the US Government.

The repeated reference to the 'efforts to dissuade, isolate and sanction' Iran is unacceptable because it dictates terms on how India should deal with other countries. It demands that India must discard our years - long relationship with Iran and work hand - in - gloves with the US in its efforts to deny Iran its rights to develop own nuclear programme. Put differently, this means that India should accord support to US to impose on another country the same (or even more stringent) sanctions that they had slapped on us - the sanctions that we had been fighting during the last quarter of the 21st Century - the sanctions that choked our own nuclear programme for two and a half decades. In other words, the sanctions that we opposed when imposed on us are welcome when another country is at the receiving end. This would be nothing short of 'double standards'.

The 'perpetual safeguards' clause is unacceptable because it means that our nuclear programme will remain under IAEA's control for ever, irrespective of whether the deal is fulfilled or not. This 'permanent impairment' can't be accepted under any circumstances. If we are accepting the safeguards for securing the deal, then why should we be forced to continue the controls even after the deal is terminated?

The last clause cited above is even more dangerous - it requires that the US President should submit to the Congress details like India's production and use of Uranium, the rate of production of nuclear fuel and even the number of nuclear explosive devices. In short, it means that US should have unhindered access to these 'most sensitive' strategic data. Or, in other words, our nuclear programme should be fully under the scanner of the US government. No country would ever be willing to share such information.

In short, the above - cited clauses of the Hyde Act seeks to ensure that: India should surrender its right to decide its own foreign policy and redraft it to make it congruent to that of the US, India should dump its rights to decide its relationship with Iran and help the US to slap Iran with the very same sanctions that it had fought for twenty five years, India's nuclear programme must be kept under the IAEA scanner till eternity - deal or no deal - and, most dangerously, that India should surrender its right to keep its strategic nuclear data in secrecy share this vital information with the US. If this doesn't amount to surrendering our sovereignty, what else would?

2. No 'Full Civil Nuclear Cooperation': The Prime Minister had repeatedly claimed that the proposed deal would ensure that India can get 'full civil nuclear cooperation'. However, when the actual deal came out, the offered cooperation turned out to be anything but 'complete'. There would be no transfer of technology or equipment that enables reprocessing of the spent fuel, enrichment of the fuel etc.

3. India will NOT enjoy the same benefits as the other nuclear powers: Even though the Bush - Manmohan Joint Statement claimed that India would be entitled to enjoy the same benefits and advantages that are shared by other nuclear powers, that assurance proved to be just an eye - wash when the Hyde Act and the deal came out. Whereas the 'recognized nuclear powers' are free to get out of the IAIEA Safeguards, India won't have such freedom - it must keep its civilian reactors under IAEA scanner 'in perpetuity'. That means even if the US stops supply of nuclear fuel to India (on whatsoever grounds) in future, effectively terminating the deal, India won't be allowed to resume its nuclear programme using the reactors placed under safeguards.

Further, the steps to be taken in case any dispute arises are vague and discriminatory. The Agreement only specifies that in case any such disputes arise, the parties shall negotiate the matter appropriately. In contrast, the 123 Agreement with Japan provides for a proper dispute settlement clause that calls for international arbitration. Moreover, the agreement with India states clearly that the deal shall be implemented in accordance with applicable international treaties and respective national laws of the countries, thereby making the agreement subordinate to the US laws, both present and those may be enacted in future. In contrast, the 123 deal with China explicitly prohibits either country from invoking its domestic laws to handle possible disputes. In short, India will continue to be treated like 'child of a lesser God'.

4. The deal attempts to force the NPT on India through 'back door': The assurance given by the Prime Minister in the Joint Statement about working with the US for a 'Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty' (FMCT) and the subsequent inclusion of clauses under Sec. 103 of the Hyde Act can have serious implications on our strategic nuclear programme. Sec. 103 (b) (1) says that US policy shall be to 'achieve, at the earliest possible date, a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive purposes by India, Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of China.' That is, India will be forced to declare a moratorium on the production of fissile material for explosive purposes. This, in effect, amounts to forcing India to accept the premises of the Nuclear Non - Proliferation Treaty that we had till date opposed on the grounds that it is unacceptably biased and against our national interests. This 'back - door implementation' of NPT can't be acceptable to us.

5. 'Back-door monitoring of India's military nuclear programme: Sec. 104 (g) (1) (C) & (D) requires that 'The President shall keep the appropriate congressional committees fully and currently informed of the facts and implications of any significant nuclear activities of India, including significant changes in the production by India of nuclear weapons or in the types or amounts of fissile material produced; and changes in the purpose or operational status of any unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle activities in India.' This means the US President will be monitoring 'any significant nuclear activities of India' including the production of nuclear weapons, fissile material and operational status of unsafeguarded (i.e., military use) nuclear facilities. Further, Sec. 104 (g) (2) (H) states: Not later than 180 days after the date on which an agreement for cooperation with India... enters into force, and annually thereafter, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report including... an estimate of (i) the amount of uranium mined and milled in India during the previous year; (ii) the amount of such uranium that has likely been used or allocated for the production of nuclear explosive devices; and (iii) the rate of production in India of (i) fissile material for nuclear explosive devices; and (ii) nuclear explosive devices...' That means almost every piece of strategic information pertaining to our military nuclear programme that should have been protected as 'classified' will have to be made available to the US Parliament. This puts India's entire nuclear programme under the monitoring of the US Government, which can't be acceptable by any standards.

COUNTER - EXAMINATION:

Now that I have presented a brief description of the various arguments presented in favour of and against the deal, I would like to proceed with further examination of these and other related arguments against each other.

PRO - DEAL ARGUMENTS:

1. Indo - US cooperation for Counter - terrorism and the 'China Factor': The proponents of stronger and closer Indo - US ties argue that such a cooperation would be in the interests of India in countering the evils of terrorism and the threat posed by China. However, this argument is refuted by the opponents of the deal, citing the role the US has played in 'encouraging' terrorist outfits and activities. They point out that the terrorist outfits in Afghanistan were the brain-children of none other than the US itself, for using them against the erstwhile Soviet Union. They also point out that if China is helping Pakistan, so does the US, that too, to a greater extent. It is widely accepted that terrorist activities on Indian soil in Kashmir (and elsewhere) are 'sponsored' by Pakistani military, which has long been a close ally of the US. Further, the Pakistani military have many times used US - supplied weapons and aircraft in its 'operations' against India, including the 'Kargil stand - off'. Even after it was revealed that Pakistan is using the help provided by the US for supporting, rather than containing, terrorist outfits operating from its soil, US have never taken any steps to stall this anti - India operations sponsored by Pakistani army and its secret service agencies.

Further, supporters of the deal (and the BJP who is opposing the deal) allege that the Communist Parties are opposing the deal because they keep allegiance to the Communist regime of China. It is alleged that the Communist Parties don't want India to grow as a challenge to China, and hence are opposing the deal that would enable India to counter China in nuclear technology front. However, the Communist Parties point out that the reply to this argument lies in the stand taken by China. The Chinese Government has made it clear that they have no objection to the Indo - US 123 Agreement, which means that even Chinese themselves don't see the deal as against their interests. If that be the case, how come the Indian Communists could think otherwise, had they been allegiant to the Chinese regime?

2. The 'Energy Security' Aspect: The major argument in favour of the deal is regarding 'energy security'. It is claimed that in the light of the ever - exploding energy requirements caused by the growing population, economic growth and changing lifestyles, we have to look for alternate sources of power, instead of relying fully on traditional sources.

'Best alternative' Argument: It is claimed that in the present - day scenario, the only feasible alternative is nuclear energy. Other options are refuted on various grounds - thermal power based on fossil fuels is not a good choice due to its ecological impact and irreplaceability of fuels like petroleum and coal. They cause high levels of pollution and generate 'green house gases', the carbon - based gases that are responsible for one of the most alarming dangers, viz., the destruction of the ozone layer that safeguards life on earth from radiations emitted by the sun. Hydel power is a better option, but is still not welcome because it needs construction of dams, which is detrimental to the ecosystem as large areas of land would be submerged in water, wiping out vegetation and animal life. Under these circumstances, nuclear power is the most feasible cheap and 'clean' alternative.

The opponents of the deal refute this argument citing the even more dangerous facet of nuclear power. Nuclear plants that deal with radio-active materials can have unpredictable and disastrous effects on the environment. It is widely known and proven fact that radioactive emissions cause irreversible damage to life. Handling the nuclear waste (left-over from the used nuclear fuel) is one of the most potentially dangerous challenges faced even by the most technologically advanced countries, including the US itself. Even today, there is no known foolproof method to dispose off nuclear waste safely. Scientists all over the world admit unanimously that prolonged exposure to the radioactive waste is as 'good' (bad?) as being exposed to the explosion of a nuclear bomb. In handling any other source of power, there is at least some scope for corrections in case of mistakes - but NOT with nuclear power. Just one mistake, and you - and almost every form of life around you - are finished. Thus, the argument of 'clean'liness of nuclear power doesn't hold much water. It is as good as arguing that stocking up nuclear bombs doesn't involve any hazards.

Further, the 'cheap power' argument also seriously lacks credibility in the face of estimated costs of generation of power. If one considers the running cost alone, nuclear power may seem cheaper. However, from India's point of view specific to the deal, we have to consider the enormous capital costs involved in importing the reactors and fuel plus the cost of processing, which, according to independent estimates, would amount to almost 1.5 times the cost of producing energy from our domestic reactors, which, in turn, is still much costlier than other sources like hydel power. In other words, it's the arguments in favour of nuclear power that are cheaper - not the power itself. The truth is very much contrary to what is claimed - imported nuclear plants are the most expensive source of power in terms of cost per unit of energy produced.

'Energy Security' claims: One of the most lucrative arguments in favour of the deal is that the deal would ensure unprecedented energy security for the country. The advocates of the deal claim that reactors and technology imported under the deal, combined with our existing reactors, will suffice to source enough power to meet our requirements to the full extent. However, opponents of the deal point out that facts and figures regarding power generation from various sources (including nuclear) and estimates based thereupon indicate that such claims are excessively exaggerated. Critics point out that as of now, India's production of nuclear power amounts to just 3% of its total requirements. The rest of the demand is met by traditional sources. According to the projected power requirement estimate prepared by the Planning Commission, India will require a total of 425,000 MW of power by 2021 - 22. (Source: Table 2.5, Integrated Energy Policy - Prepared by the Planning Commission of India.) Even if the deal is fully implemented and optimal results (as claimed by the government) are delivered without any hiccups, it would generate a maximum of 40,000 MW only - i.e., just about 9.4% of the estimated total requirement - and that too, assuming 'ideal case output', not considering the possibilities of possible down times. Opponents of the deal argue that given these pieces of statistics - prepared by none other than the government itself - it requires no great 'research' to identify the hollowness of the over - exaggerated claims of 'energy security'.

Uninterrupted supply of nuclear fuel for the imported reactors: The supporters of the deal claim that India needn't worry about sustained availability of fuel supplies for the reactors imported under the deal as the US have assured India of requisite support in this regard. The US President had assured commitment to seek agreement from the US Congress to amend its domestic laws and also coordinate with other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to adjust the practices of the NSG to enable India to secure uninterrupted supply of fuel.

This argument seems pretty convincing. However, opponents claim that these assurances are not as solid as they appear. The Presidential 'commitment' doesn't guarantee that any 'roadblocks' in the path of 'uninterrupted fuel supply' will be cleared. The commitment is only that the President will 'seek agreement from the Congress' to make necessary amendments (and NOT an outright promise that relevant laws will be amended). If the 'agreement of the Congress' that is sought is not granted, the 'uninterrupted supply' would remain on paper only. Further, even if the promised amendments are made, there is NO guarantee that US will adhere to its commitment. We already have experienced this change of stand by US in the case of the reactor at Tarapore, fuel supplies to which was stopped by US unilaterally following India's first nuclear test in 1974. After having been at the receiving end of such a 'volte face' by US, it would require unrealistically enormous optimism to believe that even the so - called 'assurances' will be adhered to. Further, an amendment to the Senate Bill passed on 29 June 2006 and the House Bill state explicitly that 'The US should not seek to facilitate or encourage the continuation of nuclear exports to India by any other party if such exports are terminated under US law' and that 'If nuclear transfers to India are restricted pursuant to this Act - the President should seek to prevent the transfer to India of equipment, materials or technology from other participating governments in the NSG or from any other source.'. Thus, it is more than evident that the claims of 'assured uninterrupted supply of fuel' remain merely an assumption only.

COUNTER - ARGUMENTS:

1. The 'Hyde Act' Factor: The opponents of the deal argue that since the 123 Agreement is facilitated by the its exemption from some relevant provisions of the US Atomic Energy Act by way of the Hyde Act, which is specific to the Agreement with India only, the provisions under Hyde Act will have to be considered while inspecting the merits and demerits of the Agreement. Many of the clauses of the Hyde Act are outright infringement of our national interests and sovereignty. Hence, the Agreement made in accordance with the Hyde Act can't be acceptable to India.

The supporters of the Agreement counter this argument saying that the Hyde Act is intended at merely allowing the requisite exemptions necessary for the 123 Agreement, and hence doesn't circumscribe the Agreement. However, the counter - claim here is that since Sec. 2.1 of the 123 Agreement clearly states that each party shall implement the Agreement 'in accordance with its respective applicable treaties, national laws, regulations, and license requirements...', there is no scope for doubt regarding the applicability of Hyde Act and other US national laws to the Agreement. Further, since the clause doesn't differentiate between laws already in effect and those which may be enacted at a later point of time, it implies that not only the existing laws, but also any legislation that may be adopted by the US Congress in future will also be binding on the Agreement.

The proponents of the Agreement also argue that even if we agree that Hyde Act and any other US Laws may be applicable, such laws are binding only on US, and NOT India. US can't impose its domestic laws on India. However, this argument is also refuted by the opponents, citing that it is the 'binding on US' status of the Hyde Act (and other laws) itself is the cause for concern. Their counter - argument is that since the US Government is bound by the provisions of Hyde Act and other relevant laws, it can't (and WON'T) give any concessions to India in matters where these laws inhibit US adherence to the provisions of the Agreement. When Hyde Act says that US can enter into 123 Agreement with a country that is not signatory to the NPT if (and only if) that country has a foreign policy congruent to that of the US, the US Government can't override this requirement and allow any concession to India, which, in turn, means that India will have to surrender and redraft its foreign policy to match US interests if we want the Agreement to go ahead. When the Hyde Act requires that US Government shall ensure 'India's full active participation' in efforts to stall the nuclear programme of Iran, it is only natural that the US Government will pressurize India to agree with the demand, and India will have to budge to the pressure if it wants to secure the deal. Further, when the Act demands that the President should report to the Congress such details as the data of India's production and use of Uranium, production of fissile material and nuclear explosive devices, it goes without saying that US Government will try to fetch these details by any means available. This situation means that India will be forced to surrender its rights to determine its own foreign policy and relationship with other countries and even the most sensitive data pertaining to its strategic nuclear programme to the US demands. This is nothing short of surrendering our sovereignty to the US diktats. The supporters of the Agreement fail to present any solid defence or counter argument in this regard.

2. The 'Full Civil Nuclear Cooperation' is no more 'Full': Another argument raised by the opponents of the deal is that even though US had promised 'full civil nuclear cooperation' under the agreement, it has NOT materialized in the actual Agreement. Quite the contrary, there would be no transfer of technology or equipment that enables reprocessing spent fuel, heavy water production or enrichment of fuel. To enable such transfer, the Agreement needs to be revised. Further, transfer of dual - use items will require amendment of other relevant US Laws as well. (Art. 5.2 of the Agreement)

Unlike the other issues cited above, here, there is no counter - argument - except that non - availability of the high - end technology would be only a temporary hiccup and will be addressed to by necessary amendments once the deal is implemented successfully. However, in the light of the political scenario in the US and strong opposition among US Congressmen against allowing such 'undue advantages' to a non - signatory to the NPT, these arguments of the pro - deal advocates seem less than convincing.

3. India won't be treated at par with other nuclear powers: Opponents of the deal point out another deviation from the assurances given in the Joint Statement of Cooperation - that India won't be enjoying the same benefits and advantages as other nuclear - capable States. The Statement had assured that India would be entitled to the same benefits and advantages enjoyed by other nuclear powers. However, Sec. 104 (b) (2) of the Hyde Act undermines this assurance. The Clause, as cited above, requires that IAEA safeguards shall be applicable in perpetuity to the civilian nuclear facilities of India, irrespective of whether the deal continues to be in effect or is terminated. This is not the case with other nuclear powers. They are free to pull out any or all nuclear facilities from the purview of the safeguards at any time. This restriction on India means that Indian nuclear facilities would remain under IAEA scanner till eternity, deal or no deal.

Here also, there is no counter - argument from the supporters of the deal.

4. Back - door imposition of NPT: The opponents of the deal point out that the commitment the Prime Minister had given in the Joint Statement regarding working in coordination with the US for setting up a 'Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty' (FMCT) and subsequent inclusion of relevant provisions in the Hyde Act (Sec. 103 (b) (1)) have, in effect, resulted in India being forced to declare a moratorium on the production of fissile material for explosive purposes. This is tantamount to imposing the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that we have been opposing ever since its introduction on the grounds that it is against our national interests. Thus, the opponents of the deal claim that the Prime Minister himself has undermined our national interests. The question here is, why should India declare a unilateral moratorium on its nuclear programme while the US is not willing to do the same? The US is keeping active its Outer - space warfare and new - generation nuclear weapons programme (including the controversial 'bunker busters') and at the same time demanding that we should put our nuclear programme in the cold storage. What kind of logic is this?

Proponents of the deal, including the Prime Minister himself, attempt to counter this argument by repeated assertions that our national and strategic interests won't be compromised. However, these assertions seriously lack in strength.

5. 'Back - door monitoring' of Non - Civilian (Military) Nuclear Programme: The opponents of the deal argue that Sec. 104 (g) (1) (C) and (D) of the Hyde Act have serious implications. These clauses require that the US President should submit to the Congress from time to time a report containing facts and implications of any significant nuclear activities of India, including the data regarding production and use of Uranium and fissile material and also explosive devices, and the operational status of unsafeguarded (military) nuclear facilities. It is argued that such a requirement would, in effect, mean that the US President will be constantly monitoring India's entire nuclear programme, including Military / Strategic programmes, which can't be acceptable on any grounds whatsoever.

Here also, the counter - arguments are restricted to mere wordily assertions without any solid base.

Other Arguments and Counter - Claims:

After looking into the strengths and weaknesses of the major arguments on the issue, I would like to examine some other arguments and counter - arguments presented by either side.

The 'China Factor': China had entered into a '123 Agreement' with the US almost two and a half decades back. The advocates of Indo - US deal point to this 'Chinese precedent' and use it to counter the concerns presented by the Left Parties - especially the Communist Parties. The question raised is, if even the die - hard Communist regime of China doesn't have any problems - ideological of otherwise - with striking a deal with the US, why is it that the Communists in India are opposing a similar deal on India's part? The pro - deal lobby claims that the Communist Parties do not want India to become a strong counter - force to China in the region and hence are trying to pull the country back from its path towards growth and development.

This question seems very much valid and convincing. If even China has no problem with the US deal, why should India have reservations? To put more precisely, why should the Indian Communists raise such a hue and cry over a deal that even the 'harder Communists' of China found nothing wrong with?

The Left Front counters these questions with a two - pronged argument - one, comparing the Chinese and Indian 123 Agreements and the other, with an India - specific angle. Comparing the Chinese 123 deal with the Indian one, they argue that the deal that China has accepted is far less intrusive than its Indian counterpart. For one, unlike the Hyde Act specific to the Indian 123 Agreement, there is no China - Specific law that is binding on their deal. This one point alone makes a huge difference as most, if not all, opposition to the Indo - US deal arise from its subordination to the Hyde Act. Moreover, most of the clauses of the Chinese 123 Agreement are far weaker than the respective clauses in the Indian deal. For example, Art. 2.1 of the Indian 123 Agreement specifies that the Agreement shall be implemented in accordance with international treaties and the respective national laws of the party countries. On the contrary, the Chinese deal states that 'the parties recognize, with respect to the observance of this agreement, the principle of international law that provides that a party may NOT invoke the provisions of its internal law as jurisdiction...'. Further, the Chinese Agreement recognizes China as an established nuclear power, and hence is exempt from most, if not all, of the IAEA Safeguards requirements. Also, the Indian Agreement expressly prohibits the reprocessing or enrichment of nuclear material supplied under the agreement without approval by the US Government, whereas there is no such guarantee requirement in the Chinese Agreement.

Further, another line of argument is that whether nor not China (or, for that matter, any other country) has entered into similar deal with the US has nothing to do with what course of action India should take. If China accepts a deal, it's for the Chinese government to ensure that the deal would not harm their national interests. Similarly, when India enters an agreement, it's our concern to ensure that the agreement doesn't contravene our interests - Not China's. A deal that doesn't (or does) affect the interests of China may not have the same effect on India. The fact that a deal is acceptable to China (or any other country) does NOT automatically guarantee that a similar deal will be favourable to India as well. (Otherwise, why didn't India sign the NPT which China has accepted more than one and a half decades back? If India can accept the 123 Agreement because China has, why not the same with NPT as well?) Also, it must be noted that all these arguments come into play ONLY if the two agreements are similar in all respects, whereas that's NOT the case here, as mentioned above.

Moreover, the Left Parties also point out that the 123 Agreement with China took more than one and a half decade to materialize, and even after a decade has passed since the deal was implemented, the nuclear power generation facilitated by the deal suffices to cover only about 5% of the total energy requirements of China, even by the estimates of the US. Then why is it that the US and Indian Governments are in such a hurry to sign off the deal? Why can't we wait for some more time? And if even China (which is much far ahead of India in terms of nuclear technology) can generate only 5% of their power requirements with the help of the deal, how come Indian Government claims that the deal would help to fully satisfy our energy needs? What 'special technology' does India have to extract such enormous amount of power from the reactors and fuel supplied under the deal?

Energy Security - Alternative options: Countering the arguments that nuclear power is unavoidable to ensure energy security, the opponents of the deal have chalked out detailed alternative strategies. They argue that India has enormous untapped potential for power generation from traditional sources. The hundreds of rivers across the country constitute the single largest source of largely underutilized energy. Moreover, we have large reserves of coal that can cater to the demands of a number of thermal power plants that can shoulder a major share of our energy requirements burden of today as well as future. And both these sources are far cheaper to exploit than the much expensive nuclear power. Moreover, the Left Parties also question the Government's lack of interest in the proposed Iran - Pakistan - India natural gas pipeline project. If the Government was truly interested in ensuring energy security, why don't they try to explore various alternatives available and just keep harping on the one - point agenda of nuclear deal?

The pro - deal lobby's defence against this line of argument revolves around ecological concerns. They point out the ill - effects of these alternative sources. Considering hydel power, they argue that tapping hydel power would require construction of huge dams everywhere, sinking thousands of acres of land, causing major problems with the fragile ecosystem of the tropical areas. Coal and natural gas are opposed on the basis of the pollution factor. The same argument applies to diesel - based power plants. Moreover, the skyrocketing prices of petroleum products virtually seal the fate of diesel plant option. Also, all carbon - based (natural) fuels produce, along with power, gases that contribute to green house effect which is a far more serious issue than energy security. Added to that is the irreplaceability of the fossil fuels, the availability of which is declining at alarming rates.

Here, the pro - nuclear argument appears to hold a clear edge over the anti - nuclear one, because the arguments are based on factors that are issues of much greater concern, not only to India, but to the entire world as such. In this sense, the pro - nuclear energy arguments do enjoy some advantage. However, this apparent advantage is effectively demolished when the 'alternative' is explored in deeper detail. The threats posed by the drawbacks of nuclear energy outscore the apparent disadvantages of the cheaper, natural alternatives by a great extent. Experts in the industry point out that managing nuclear plants that handle highly radioactive materials can be a real challenge. If pollution from carbon - based fuels is dangerous, the effects of radioactive emission are nothing short of disastrous. Even the most technologically advanced countries including the US themselves, are yet to device a fool - proof method for handling and safe disposal of hazardous nuclear waste. Every moment you are running a nuclear plant, you are virtually sitting on a multi - mega ton nuclear bomb. If this be the case, why is the Government so eager to grab disaster, that too, paying for it?

Further, the opponents of the deal, including experts in the field of nuclear energy, point out also that India have abundant deposits of Thorium, a potential alternative source of nuclear power other than Uranium of which we are in very short supply. Research is on since last few years to develop a feasible method to tap into this potential resource and utilize these deposits for power generation. However, the government has cut down efforts in this direction drastically even as it virtually 'goes down on its knees' to get the 123 deal ratified. This is like keeping a treasure in your own backyard and going begging for the day's bread! This 'double stand' is beyond common sense understanding, even more so when we consider the fact that India will have to put all development activities in the field in 'cold storage' once the deal is through.

The supporters of the deal counter this argument citing two reasons: One, the research on the 'Three - Stage Enrichment Programme for converting Thorium to commercially viable source of power is still in the early stages. It would take at least two more decades to extract even minimal levels of success in this direction. By the time commercially viable energy output is derived from this research, our energy requirements would have shot through the skies. Two: The three - stage programme doesn't eliminate the risk of radioactive waste that is cited as a reason for arguing against the deal. This argument is pretty convincing indeed, but still doesn't answer the question why the Government is going slow in the research activities that can create more than enough reserves in case the plants set up under the deal run short of fuel for whatever reason.

Effect on India's Strategic Weapons Programme: Opponents of the deal, especially the BJP and its allies, argue that the deal, in its present form, would scuttle India's strategic nuclear weapons programme, citing Sec. 106 of the Hyde Act, which states that 'A determination and any waiver under section 104 shall cease to be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of the enactment of this title.' In fact, the anti - deal argument of the BJP and allies mostly revolve around this single issue.

However, this concern is countered by the pro - deal lobby citing that the strategic nuclear programme is not hindered by the 123 Agreement, since reactors involved in the programme are not covered by the IAEA safeguards or any other intrusive clauses of Hyde Act or the Agreement. Also, the safeguards do not apply to the existing spent fuel that can be utilized for producing more than enough nuclear weapons. Hence, fears of inability to go ahead with strategic programme are rather misplaced, if not fully baseless.

What happens if a dispute arises?: Another serious drawback of the 123 Agreement in its present form, according to critics, is that it doesn't specify a proper Dispute Redressal Clause. Art. 15 (SETTLEMENT OF DISPUTES) of the Agreement is a mere one - liner which states that 'Any dispute concerning the interpretation or implementation of the provisions of this Agreement shall be promptly negotiated by the Parties with a view to resolving that dispute.' This means in case there is any back - tracking on the part of the US in complying with the provisions of the Agreement - a concern that can't be overlooked, especially considering the FACT that we already have experienced similar 'cheating' by the US in the case of the Tarapore reactor - India won't have any reliable forum to get justice. We don't have any choice - we have to rely on 'negotiations' that give absolutely no guarantee that would enforce compliance. If the so - called 'negotiations' fail to settle the issue, we don't have ANY alternative at all - just accept defeat - the deal is dead...! On the other hand, similar agreements with other countries do contain proper dispute settlement clauses. (e.g. The 123 Agreement with Japan states (Art. 14) that 'If any dispute arising out of the interpretation or application of this agreement is not settled by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, or other similar procedure, the parties may agree to submit such dispute to an arbitral tribunal which shall be composed of three arbitrators...') Why this 'double standards'? And WHY is the Government acting 'spineless', not daring to demand even a proper dispute settlement clause? The government and the pro - deal (pro - US?) lobby seems to have no answers.

Fuel supply - alternate sources: Opponents of the deal question the reliability of US 'commitments' regarding supply of fuel for the rectors imported under the deal. They cite the precedent of the Tarapore Plant, for which the US had offered to supply fuel, but subsequently back-tracked following India's first nuclear test in 1974. They argue that if, in future, US decides to stop fuel supply for the imported plants (for whatever reasons), we will run dry of fuel to support the plants, and will be forced to shut down the plans, leading to acute energy shortages.

However, pro - deal forces counter these concerns citing the option for 'alternative sources' - that even if US backtracks from fuel supplies, we have the right to seek 'alternate arrangements' and get fuel supply from other countries (like Russia, France etc.) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stressed this point in his statement on the floor of the Parliament on 7 March 2006. The basis for the claim is that the India's agreement with IAEA regarding safeguards would enable our nuclear cooperation not only with the US but other countries as well. This argument also looks convincing enough to clear the doubts in this regard.

However, this 'alternate arrangement' fiasco doesn't end here. Sec. 102 (13) of the Hyde Act specifies that 'the United States should not seek to facilitate or encourage the continuation of nuclear exports to India by any other party if such exports are terminated under United States law.' Adding more teeth to the provision, the 'Conference Report' that reconciled the amendments to the Act by the House and the Senate, in Sec. 4 (d) (3), specified that ' If nuclear transfers to India are restricted pursuant to this Act — the President should seek to prevent the transfer to India of equipment, materials or technology from other participating governments in the NSG or from any other source.' This, in effect, restricts the 'alternate measures' option to stoppage of fuel supply due to reasons other than legal restrictions. i.e., if the US firm(s) supplying fuel is (are) in unable to maintain sustained supply, India will be allowed to seek alternate arrangements from other sources. On the other hand, if, for any reason whatsoever, the fuel supply is legally prevented, then we don't have the option for 'alternate arrangements' because US will prevent any such supply from any other country, irrespective of whether that country is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group or not - in effect, imposing break - neck sanctions on our nuclear programme. In such a scenario, we will be left with no option but to shut down the Plants.

Deal is 'Anti - Muslim': Some sections of the opponents of the deal claim that it is against the interests of Muslims, may be aiming to reap gains by rousing religious sentiments. Supporters of the deal counter these claims as attempts of 'vote bank politics'. On this point, the pro - deal line does have a clear advantage. Of course, it is true that some Muslim groups oppose the deal. However, from an outsider's point of view, the Agreement is not anti - Muslim. No clause contained in the Agreement or other relevant laws (like Hyde Act) raises any threat against Islam as a religion or Muslims as a community. Well, it is true that there are clauses that directly target Iran, a Muslim country. But that doesn't make the deal 'anti - Muslim' - it's only 'Anti - Iran, at the most'. However, it can't be overlooked that it is this 'anti - Iran' nature of the deal that prompts many Muslim organizations to oppose it. Considering this fact, it may be possible to claim that the deal, opposed by many Muslims, is against their interests, even though it is not against them.

Experts in the field support the deal: The political supporters of the deal claim that many prominent experts and scientists have extended attestation to the proposed deal. They cite a few 'big names' like former President and eminent scientist A. P. J. Abdulkalam, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar et al who have given testimonials to the deal. And some pro - deal advocates among the public argue that it's for the experts in the Industry and the Government to think of various factors involved, and not political leaders. They also argue that these eminent scientists and concerned officials would definitely have considered every possible issue involved, and the government has concluded in favour of the deal not without applying proper thought.

Here again, the argument seems to hold credibility, especially because it enjoys the patronage of some 'no - nonsense' personalities who are experts in the field. After all, it may not suite the thinking of common man that someone like a former President would endorse a move that is against the interests of the country. However, critics say, what the 'pro - deal lobby' attempts to cover - up is that, just as there are experts supporting the deal, there are many others - who are experts in their own rights - who oppose the deal as well. Scientists like P. K. Iyengar (former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission), Dr. H. N. Sethna (former chairman, Atomic Energy Commission), Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan (Former Chairman, Atomic energy Regulatory Board), Dr. A. N. Prasad (former director, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) et al are, by any account, as much knowledgeable experts as (or more than?) the likes of Abdulkalam, Kakodkar and the like in the field of nuclear power. When they say that we would be effectively 'walking into' the US - designed trap by accepting the deal, what they do is, in fact, burst some fabulous bubbles the government and the pro - deal lobby has blown up to present to the common man who doesn't know much about nuclear energy.

Gains for the US: By far, one of the strongest arguments against the deal is that it is the part of a meticulously planned strategy devised by the United States to pull off undue economic, political and tactical gains by making India a pawn in its intricate designs. Critics of the deal argue that it is the US and only the US that stands to fetch gains from the proposed deal - gains from two different streams - one, the economic gains that result from exploiting India as a potential market for US - based corporate giants. The nuclear reactors and components exported to India under the deal would harvest huge returns for the US companies. Since nuclear research in India would be virtually at stand-still once the deal gets through, India will be perpetually dependent on the support extended by the US companies, thereby securing unlimited business opportunities for the US.

More than the gains in the economic front, the US stands to fetch unprecedented political gains from the deal. The preconditions of the deal would ensure that India is forced to bend its policies in various aspects to be made favourable to the interests of the US. This crucial shift in India's policies and stands would help US in tackling many issues that are presently causing headaches to them, may it be containing China's growth as an Asian challenge to the US, may it be undermining the nuclear programme of Iran, may it be 'escaping' from the troubles brewing in the Middle East. US is more than aware that if India, probably the best energy market in Asia, continues the way it is, it would be detrimental to their (US) interests in the oil - rich Middle East. To grab more hold in the oil market, they have to get rid of India from the scene. All these concerns and issues can be laid to rest in one shot if US can turn India a pawn in the plot. That is why US is so keen on pushing the deal through even though they are very much aware that majority of India stand against.

Talking of the 'China Factor' again: Critics - and even some supporters of the deal - point out that the real aim behind the US - sponsored deal is, evidently, to indulge India as a 'strategic partner' in their attempts to curtail the emergence of China as a challenge to their supremacy. It is highly probable that, given the recent string of joint military exercises and other activities, US will prefer to use India as a 'stop - over' in case a conflict arises with China. Such a move will reap enormous benefits for the US in terms of tactical position. In such a scenario, no one can write - off the possibility of a Chinese counter - attack on India. US may lose some ground by such a move, but won't lose much. On the other hand, the ultimate loser will be India.

Another aspect where US stands to gain is on the 'Nuclear Waste Management' strategy, says opponents. Given the fact that India doesn't - or, for that matter, not even the most technologically advanced countries do - have a reliable, foolproof system for disposal of highly hazardous nuclear waste, the only feasible alternatives are, either use the radioactive waste in nuclear weapons or export the waste to some other country. In our case, since the agreement explicitly prohibits the use of the supplied nuclear materials or technology or by-products thereof for military purposes, we are left with no choice - we must dispose off the waste by giving it to some other country - may be the US itself, and we will have to pay for their services in the disposal. And they can use the material thus obtained for adding to their nuclear warheads stockpile. Put together, the scenario is: India will import nuclear reactors and technology and fuel to run them - means profit for US firms dealing in nuclear materials; The US agencies provide us 'waste disposal service' with a heavy price - tag (for the risks involved) - again means profit for the firms; The nuclear waste thus obtained could be used by the US to produce more nuclear weapons - means gains sans pains for US. In other words, we end up producing weapons - grade nuclear material for US to add to their armoury, fully at our cost, our risk.

The question is: Should we dance to the US tune and help them reap profit at our cost and risk? Pro - deal advocates don't seem to be interested in replying.

CONCLUSION:

After presenting a detailed examination of various factors at play regarding the Indo - US '123 Agreement', I feel that it's time to take this analysis to conclusion. Here, I would like to present the conclusions that I reach from the various arguments and counter - arguments and, more importantly, the relevant documents / sources underlying such arguments.

From the analysis of various factors involved, my conclusions on the 'Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of India Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy' are summarized as follows:

1. Need for 'better cooperation' with the US: The idea looks fabulous 'on paper'. It would be great to have some strong outside support, especially considering the menaces - like terrorism, cross - border problems etc. - we are facing since decades. In that sense, cooperation with any country is welcome. However, when 'help' comes with a 'rider' attached, it would be better to think not twice, but thrice - what do we gain; what do we stand to lose; what is their - the 'helping' country's - interests are. As far as the proposed cooperation with the US is concerned, we stand to lose too much and gain too little, while allowing a harvest of gains for the US. So, my vote is a 'No'.

2. The 'Energy Security' angle: Again, the concept looks great - given the heavy demand for energy and the acute shortage in supply thereof, it need no great knowledge of economics to welcome any option that can provide at least some re spite - whether it is nuclear power, thermal power, hydel power or whatever. The question, however, is: Why should we go after one source alone while completely ignoring other prospects? Every alternative has its own issues of concerns - whether it is cost, ecological issues or practical difficulties. Why go after one alternative only when everybody agrees that all it can provide is as little as 7 - 8% of what is required?

3. The 'Hyde Act' Effect: Never before in history was a domestic law of another country the subject of so much extensive debate in India. Almost every argument on the proposed nuclear deal seems to revolve around clauses of the 'Hyde Act' and implications thereof. Even a rough reading of the Hyde Act shows that many provisions contained therein seriously interfere with India's rights in various fields - may it be foreign policy, may it be the relationship with other countries like Iran, may it be our strategic nuclear programme - the Hyde Act does interfere to enforce a 'pro - US' stance, thereby compromising our right for independent status in these matters. That can't be acceptable to any independent country.

Lesser benefits than other nuclear powers: In the Bush - Manmohan Joint Statement, it was announced that once the Agreement with US comes into effect, India will be entitled to the same benefits and privileges that are enjoyed by other major nuclear powers of the world. However, this promise has turned out to be worth no more than the paper on which the statement was prepared. The 'perpetual safeguards' provision has effectively put India permanently under the IAEA scanner, whether or not the deal is implemented or not, whereas the 'Safeguards' clause is NOT applicable to 'recognized' nuclear powers. Moreover, many clauses in the Agreement - like applicability of domestic laws, lack of a proper dispute settlement provision etc - gives the feeling that India is being served with 'step - motherly' treatment.

4. Enforcement of NPT through 'back door': The unilateral commitment the Prime Minister had given in the Joint Statement regarding agreeing on Fissile Material Cut - off Treaty (FMCT) and subsequent inclusion of the policy statement that US will try to 'achieve a moratorium on production of fissile material' by India, in effect, compromises our decades - long position against the discriminatory provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This 'back - door enforcement' of NPT against our declared stand can't be accepted.

5. US Presidential 'monitoring' of India's military nuclear programme: The clauses of the Hyde Act that demand US President's reporting of various highly sensitive tactical details on India's military nuclear programme - like amount of Uranium used for production of weapons, quantity of fissile material produced, number of weapons produced, operational status of non - civilian (military) nuclear plants etc - amounts to US 'censorship' of India's military programme. No true Indian citizen can accept this external monitoring.

6. India forced to be a pawn in US hands: Many factors point to the undue pressure US is applying on India to join hands with them to carry out activities that suite their own political agenda, like adjustment of foreign policy to be 'congruent to' that of the US, 'active cooperation' (Does it mean outright military cooperation?) with the US in its moves against Iran, countering China's growth etc. It is evident, from these factors, that India is being made a pawn in the plot to reap momentous gains for the US. This 'utilization' of India for someone else's gains MUST be opposed at whatever cost.

It's high time we declared in no uncertain terms that We are an INDEPENDENT Nation - NOT a 'state' of the USA.


Note: This article is based on the Complete text of the 123 Agreement released by the Bureau of Public Affairs under the Under - Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Govt. of the United States of America, and the text of the 'Hyde Act' (H. R. 5682) from the official web site of the US Congress. Any quotations from the Agreement / Act cited in the article are copied 'as it is' from the above said sources.



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