Many unanswered questions
India is an open country and there is much vitality in the system to express fearless opinion. Only this fearlessness might perhaps give India its fuller strength in times of challenge and might compensate for what deficiencies we find in the present governance.
There is an air of complacency and self-congratulation in New Delhi! After the Indo-US nuclear deal everything seems to have been settled for this government. As Kuldip Nayar points out that the nuclear deal has only opened up some unsettled issues for not only India but more so for Pakistan and China. There are so many on-going talks, with the two countries and with China there is a border discussion at the moment and Defence Minister has postponed his visit to China and there are anxieties about how the strategic relationships with the two countries, also with USA, will all evolve.
The nuclear deal’s pros and cons would be revealed only when progress is made in Washington and New Delhi. Already in India there are questions raised by Opposition parties and experts, nuclear scientists and diplomats who can be believed to know many of the finer prints in the deal’s text. The Indian public is really kept in the dark. Not just the public domain, even Parliament is kept out of the Indo-Us pacts on strategic, economic, defence relations.
Under the Indian Constitution, there is no obligation for the government of the day to do anything more than just inform the Parliament and then carry on implementation of such far reaching international agreements and obligations. In the nuclear deal where the scientists and diplomats have expressed the fears, justified, by the perceived weighted disadvantages against India, as one diplomat says in a column that “the text of the deal is weighted against India, factually incorrect and replete with ambiguities”(Satish Chandra).
So, after all the Opposition’s anxieties are not born out of any partisan considerations. The Singh government in particular, already lacking in political legitimacy, the PM is just a nominated one and he had developed a style of doing things in secrecy and keeping the public domain in the dark. This is not a healthy style for India and as the editorials in our media demand we need to amend the Constitution so that the government of the day don’t do things without wider public debate and also distort national consensus on such vital matters within a given five year term to any incumbent government. The Indo-US nuclear deal had gone off well, as on date. There is widespread appreciation inside India as well as in the US too. One hopes this outward consensus is going to turn a new chapter in India’s relations with the USA, the world’s so-called only Super Power.
What should be the sources of concern for Indians is the long history of our rather uneasy relationship with the US. Kuldip Nayar has written that how when I.K. Gujral, as PM, met Bill Clinton the US President mentioned that US had almost didn’t know India at all! Yes, such was the ignorance of US politicians. Now, after Clinton, Bush has come as a much more forthcoming President. It is his insistence to have a deal that led to this latest strategic partnership. But the whole world knows that George Bush desperately needs some image change. From being a war monger he seeks to go down as a peace maker. Peaceful relationship with India would win him so many new friends, Bush knows well. Better late than never!
The nuclear deal is not just a one step and one-time achievement. The issue begs so many questions. Even the Congress Working Committee “expressed the hope the agreement would effectively end the nuclear apartheid” for India. The CWC knows well that there are more problems ahead. One is the current on-going Iran vote which India cast twice along with the USA. As the Left MPs pointed out that India by singing the deal should not feel satisfied or become complacent but play its role for a nuclear free and not help to open up an arms race.
Much more significant are the views expressed by scientists closely associated with the Atomic energy programme. Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Regulatory Board, says (Asian Page14, March, 2006) India should not follow the West blindly and vote against Iran just to please the USA. As everyone knows, it was US policies in the past, by helping Iraq in the Iran-Iraq wars, that now had led to isolating Iran which now feels threaded for lack of a detterance. Hence, its nuclear programme.
As pointed out by many experts and observers, India, instead of following the pro-US stance so blatantly, must become pro-active to bring along Russia and China with its brokering a consensus so that a confrontation with Iran is avoided. From what the impression the PM has given so far is that such thoughts are not on the minds of the government. It is here the importance or non-importance of the role played by the PM in articulating India’s foreign policy in the current context. In the case of Dr.Singh he, as Winston Churchill famously said of his successor, Clement Atlee “He is a modest man and he has much to be modest about”
As the TV screens displayed the whole India and the world seen we saw an American President, despite his falling ratings walked with his usual swagger while the Indian Prime Minister was modesty personified to the point of getting a pat or two from his distinguished visitor, rather patronising pat and also our PM walked and stood not in full control of the events but rather as a diffident self. This gave me a rather not so confident a national mood.
Also, some how I couldn’t bring myself to approve of the PM’s way of governance which is devoid of all political inputs and many secretive players, more the retired and faceless persons guiding the major decisions that could affect the fate of the generations of Indians. Parliament or the Cabinet seem to have debated the issues, the inputs from the independent intelligentsia was plentiful and that angle only gives me hope that India is an open country and there is much vitality in the system to express fearless opinion. Only this fearlessness might perhaps give India its fuller strength in times of challenge and might compensate for what deficiencies we find in the present governance.