India’s enlightened national interest?

Or enlightened international good?

President George Bush was in India. Before this high profile visit came the French President Jaques Chirac’s visit. The French President came to India when India’s nuclear deal with America had created a storm in the Opposition ranks. France as everyone knows is a top nuclear power; it is the number one State which produces almost 80 per cent of its nuclear energy from nuclear plants.

Prime Minister is widely criticized for his lack of wider consultation in such a strategic issue like nuclear technology.  Even Sonia Gandhi had advised the PM to consult nuclear scientists.  Mr.Bush’s nuclear power proposal has upset Indian nuclear scientists.  All senior scientists disapprove of the Bush plan for India.  India has to be sure such a policy with long-term, strategic implications is not decided the way it is now being done by the PM’s establishment.  But by a wider consensus. Prime Minister at someone’s bidding. It might suit the man concerned but not to the country that prides itself on its open democratic traditions.

There is further criticism of the PM for claiming, “his new jingle,” enlightened national interest”. The PM’s quote is rightly criticized, even compared with General Parvez Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation”! As a critic writes: “The country can be enlightened only through a straight government response to (nuclear) issues that go beyond the fast-breeder programme”. Yes, the nuclear deal with the USA by the Prime Minister, almost in a hush-hush manner without a broad open debate with the people or articulating a public response to the US offer, had earned the UPA government the much needed criticism and a sort of subdued rebellion on the way the PM might go forward when the US President touches Indian soil.

There is always an anti-US sentiment in the country and this might get a trigger when the US-India nuclear deal gives rise to legitimate suspicions in a wider segment of society, not just the Opposition parties, the Samajwadi party and the Left but also from the wider political opinion, from the BJP to the Indian atomic energy community, the scientists and the others in the establishment, not to speak of the well-informed opinion within the Congress party establishment itself.   After all, the Indian foreign policy is a long-time evolutionary one, the PM talks to suit all occasions and we don’t know for sure what his personal thinking is in the spheres of foreign policy or his own judgment of the nuclear deal he entered with the USA.

Our current foreign policy might not be an extension of our Non-alignment, though the PM chooses us to believe that India will have its national interests supreme to decide its own freedom to make policy changes. Fine. But then this remark came from the PM just ten days after the Indian vote against Iran. That has to be seen along with what India is going to do when it comes to responding to the US conditionality to the nuclear deal.

As the critics have it, the deal puts Indian freedom of choice in other areas, including our own choice to develop our nuclear capabilities on par with nuclear powers, but only as a second class nuclear power. This perception is really damaging to Indian’s national self-interest.

As things stand, there are reservations among the nuclear scientists.  There is a widespread feeling that under the deal that India would lose the same, equal rights and benefits, India would lose the “voluntary safeguards” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which now inspects worldwide only 11 nuclear facilities, these are in the five nuclear weapon states, out of 915 nuclear facilities that are in the world. The troubling condition to which India had agreed is the line that “IAEA inspections on Indian facilities” must be applied in perpetuity”. The PM is to make India’s position clear in Parliament. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a full-fledged Foreign Minister and what we know for sure the entire foreign policy, the entire nuclear deal is being conducted by two senior bureaucrats.

Americans as a nation seem to be not as enlightened as the French nation is. I have been reading through a book by the present French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin (Towards a New World) that sets out his speeches, articles and interviews on a range of issues that gives the French position on some of the current issues that had divided the world into pro-American and Anti-American camps. Villepin is not just a run of the mill politician like the American politician, he is a poet and thinker, he was first Foreign Minister when the Iraqi war broke out and the French under his leadership at the Security Council and outside took a consistent principled position. The UN is the forum to launch such a major war and this position didn’t please the Americans. The French President Jaque Chirac also took such a public stand which was supported by Germany and Russia and thus, from the very start American war in Iraq didn’t find an international consensus. Even now, on Iran the US position is not for inviting a consensus.

I would recommend to our leaders, both the UPA and the opposition ranks the book before me. Villepin says in one memorable passage: “With the new century we are seeing the repetition of  a strange paradox: just as the dawn of the Renaissance was darkened by the Wars of Religion, and just as the hopes of the French Revolution were drowned  in the blood of Terror, it is at the very moment when civilization is entering a decisive phase, when the world is undergoing the most tremendous changes, bearer of the greatest hopes for peace”(page 223)This one speech is a gem of the French enlightenment,” Voltaire and Diderot proclaimed the intangible character of the human person”. And so on and on.” By way of India, now the world’s largest exporter of information services, globalization establishes a new dynamic among nations and continents”.

The point is that India has its own long tradition of an independent foreign policy, seeking peace and friendship with all nations. Now, the USA, as a pre-eminent super power, looks at the world in a slightly disturbing manner. What is US supreme self interest, US seem to be saying to the rest of the world, is the best for the rest of the world! India may or may not be guided by what the PM calls India’s “enlightened national interest”. Or, enlightened self interest? 

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