US-India Nuclear Deal Imbroglio

Lack of Transparency by Congress Government
Raises Suspicions of Sell-out

In what could have been a historic moment in US-India relations, the announcement on July 27, 2007 that negotiations had been completed on the US-India Civilian Nuclear Deal, implying that the Joint Text had been mutually agreed to, is now heading towards an imbroglio. Imbroglio it is, as the word implies 'a complicated political situation' or 'a confused heap'. The unfolding situation following the announcement of reaching an accord is both a complicated political situation and a confusing heap of contradictory signals and assertions emanating from both New Delhi and Washington.

India's Congress Government spokesmen like the National Security Adviser and the Foreign Secretary through selective statements have tried hard to project that India has not compromised on the assertions made by the Congress Government Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh on the floor of the Indian Parliament that India's strategic autonomy would not be compromised while signing the Deal. Both had gone to USA for the final round of extended negotiations.

Selective leaks abound on their return to New Delhi, from so-called official sources claiming anonymity that the Deal negotiated is the best that India could have got and that India has not compromised on any issues of its strategic autonomy.

In marked contrast to the optimistic rhetoric of India's official policy establishment and possibly as a retort to set the record straight, the following assertions have emanated from Washington:

  • 'We had to make sure that everything under the Civilian Nuclear Agreement and the 123 Agreement was completely consistent with the Hyde Act and well within the bounds of the Hyde Act.'
    ' US Assistant Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns,
    the Chief Negotiator from the US side
  • 'The way Indians are reading it (the text of the Deal) is not correct from the (US) Administration point of view' a US official.
  • 'India was fully aware all along that the 123 Agreement would have to strictly conform to the Hyde Act stipulations' a US official.

No Indian official has yet contested the claims made in Washington at the official level. If India was all along aware that the US Administration would not be able to get past the Hyde Act then what was the point of continued negotiations? It was this which prompted this author to pen 'US Congress At Strategic Crossroads With India' (originally published on December 2006) indicating that Indian public opinion would go against it if it persisted in adherence to the agenda of the non-proliferation ayatollahs in Washington and indulged in trying to cap India's strategic nuclear program through backdoor arm-twisting means, as the Hyde Act has really turned out to be.

The assertions made in Washington in response to Indian rhetorical optimism in the last few days quoted above should rightfully have been contested because if the US Administration insists that the 123Agreement would be in complete compliance with the Hyde Act then obviously India's strategic autonomy on its nuclear weapons program stands compromised and sold out to USA. The Hyde Act basically protects US non-proliferation agenda and is a pretext to force India into CTBT compliance through the backdoor.

To this confusing heap of different interpretations needs to be added the significant and startling reluctance of the Indian Prime Minister and the Congress Government to release the Full Text of the Deal negotiated along with its fine text. Those who are conversant with USA fully know that it is in the Fine Print that all the devilish details are camouflaged which ordinary people do not have the patience to read.

If the US Administration has compromised and conceded India's three nuclear demands to safeguard her strategic autonomy then the Congress Government spokesmen would have triumphantly gone to town hailing their achievements. The picture in New Delhi is just the opposite. The Government is visibly reluctant to release the Full Text. Even the Leftists and the opposition BJP leaders were given an official briefing for forms sake and were not shown the Full Text. This is a gross deviation from democratic norms.

Obviously something is amiss and leads to further speculation that the Congress Government has probably indulged in a strategic sellout to USA for reasons best known to it.

Regular readers of this Column would recall from my writing of July 2, 2007'Indo-US Nuclear Deal: Fears That Indian e Minister May Climb Down' had mentioned that palpable fears exist that the Congress Government may climb down and compromise on the Nuclear Deal under US pressure and that the Prime Minister in all the din of the palpable fears had consistently shied away from re-asserting the assertions that he had made on the floor of the Indian Parliament to soothe Indian public opinion which stood agitated on the conditionalities being attached to the original agreement.

On the contrary the Prime Minister and his top diplomats had begun asserting of late that foreign policy and foreign policy negotiations do not require to be placed in the public domain and that Parliament's approval is not required constitutionally. This may be technically correct but not democratically and politically correct as no political party's election manifesto spells out its foreign policy agenda in detail

More importantly foreign negotiations involving critical implications on India's strategic autonomy and national security cannot be claimed as the sole preserve of the ruling political dispensation. The last time a Congress Prime Minister so asserted and followed this precept he fell from the iconic pedestal on which India had placed him and India took nearly two decades to recover from the strategic debacle that such misguided prime ministerial prerogatives brought about.

The Indian strategic community, foreign policy analysts and the bulk of the Indian print media has come out strongly against the Congress Government's ill advised move to freeze the Full Text of the Nuclear Deal arrived at with USA.

The media criticism goes to the extent of indicating that the Congress Government stands sold out to USA on its foreign and defense policies and extending all the way to even agriculture. The present Government is accused of taking all its policy decisions cues from Washington.

The present selective leaks by the Government are being read as part of a disinformation and misinformation campaign by the Congress Government to soften Indian public opinion to receive the shocks of the strategic sellout that has taken place when the Full Text is released at a later stage.

In the absence of the Full Text and its associated Fine Print and the Government's reluctance to share it with its own Coalition Partners the strategic community in India perforce is led to the conclusion that the Congress Government has presumably climbed down from its Parliamentary assertions on the US-India Nuclear Deal and made compromises leading to a sell-out on India's strategic autonomy. 


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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