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Indo-Us Nuclear Deal Operationalization Runs into Rough Weather
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
The Indo-US Nuclear Deal seems jinxed as five years down the line it has yet to be operationalized. Right from the initiation of this Deal its progress stood retarded as the United States pressurized India to submit to US laws on the subject, forgetting the fact that unlike Pakistan where the United States is used to get its way by enlisting the coercive power of the US- collusive Pakistan Army, the same is not possible in India. India is a thriving democracy and Indian public opinion is a dominant factor. The latest controversy centers around the introduction in the Indian Parliament of the “Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010”.The United States considers the passage of this Bill as crucial for the ‘operationalization” of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal of 2005. Fearing stiff political opposition to the Bill, the Congress Party was forced to defer this Bill. A respected strategic analyst has bluntly termed the passage of the provisions of this Bill in its present form as India as the only country in the world voluntarily committing “nuclear hara-kiri”
There has been a widespread and vocal opposition to this Bill both from all Opposition political parties as well as a fair cross-section of Indian political and strategic analysts. They point out that India is under no international obligation to pass such a Bill and furthermore when Russia and France, the other countries which have contracted to build civil nuclear reactors in India have not insisted on the passage of such a Bill. They charge the Congress Government for caving-in under United States pressure to meet American concerns that India should provide immunity against any future litigation against US nuclear reactor suppliers in the event of damages litigation by victims of any possible accident.
The Bill in its present form transfers the major part of any litigation damages in case of nuclear accidents to the Indian Government and therefore by implication directly to the Indian tax- payer . And therein lies the rub for Indian public opinion which feels that right throughout the process of finalization of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal the Indian Prime Minister has consistently allowed himself to be pressurized by the United States even where Indian sovereignty was involved. And Indian public opinion is again incensed that the passage of this ‘immunity to US Nuclear Firms’ is again a continuation of the same pressures
The noted Indian jurist noted and respected for his legal acumen has termed the provisions of this Bill as “discriminatory”.
The Prime Minister alarmed by the growing opposition to this US-Centric Bill has tasked his National Security Advisor to give a briefing on the Bill to Congress Part Members of Parliament and also to interact with the main Opposition Party leaders to allay their fears.
The Bharatiya Janata Party as the principal Opposition Party has declared that it will oppose the passage of this Bill and they are likely to be supported by other Opposition Parties. Unlike the Women’s Reservation Bill issue, the Opposition Parties would refrain to support the ruling party.
The issue is further compounded by the Prime Minister’s attitude of not being transparent and forthcoming when it comes to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and related issues and other issues pertaining to Indo-US relations. Such political arrogance is unwarranted when he heads a coalition government where cracks have already appeared.
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