United Progressive Alliance becomes United Political Survival! It is ironical that the Left threatened the UPA and in the process the ruling alliance caved in. They have all become partners in the united political survival game.
PM’s credibility falls, Sonia slips! Left prone to trouble making, as usual! The Indo-US nuclear deal had taken certain unexpected turns. The Left had over-played its hands and the PM uncharacteristically issued an ultimatum of sorts and the Sonia” a latest outburst only queered the pitch. So, there is every sign that the political pace is quickening and the mid-polls is the only way out of this logjam. What if India loses its face with the IAEA chairman visiting India at an embarrassing moment with the Left’s public posturing creating an acute difficulty for the distinguished guest as well as the host country. The basic irony is that no one seems to be wiser after all these controversies! Who exactly is the originator of the deal in the first place? Why Man Mohan Singh emerged as the sole defender of the deal? How sure are the hardcore Left leaders the deal, even if concluded in the “operationalisation” 123,Hardy Act and the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the signing of the CTBT, FMCT are all really gone through? Why Sonia after the initial slip by the PM had suddenly lost control over her remarks, knowing fully well the Left is already so touchy about their own wisdom?
And, pray, who the beneficiaries are in the short and the long run? The nuclear power industry manufacturers, this time, those in the USA with a fat cheque to get from the Indian government? Or, the ultimate users of this otherwise expensive power, the common man? Honestly, no one knows the answers for any or all of these questions! And certainly, the PM is no wiser than any other person concerned! One of the great exposures of this deal is the PM’s own limited role in all these developments! Why no one is speaking out that in the first place this Indo-US nuclear deal was signed by the Vajpayee government, right? So, in all honesty and also humility the PM must have explained to the people the whole process as to how it was started by the NDA regime and what the Congress is doing now is to carry forward the process to some happy conclusion. May be, the PM wanted to have all the glory for himself? Or, for what reasons he chose to become the sole champion of this deal? And much more important is the fact that nuclear power even after all the difficulties are overcome and reached the stage of production, it is not going to be cheap power. There will always be the economic costs and advantages. Nuclear power would cost a lot and the government has to subsidies this power more than other types of power, the conventional thermal and hydro power as well as the alternative fuels like wind power and other sources of power. So, why the PM has not thought of educating and enlightening the public? Also, the whole business of safeguards. M.R.Srinivasan, the former chairman of the Atomic energy commission and now an ardent advocate of nuclear power has pointed out the various dangers nuclear power plants are exposed to. The two disasters, the Three Mile Island accident in the USA in 1979 and the Chernobyl in the former USSR(now in Ukraine) in 1986 are even now fresh in public memory. The various hazards and also the safeguards in nuclear power industry reads like a hell’s description and one person like the present Prime Minister would seem to be the last person to become an ardent advocate of nuclear power! Yes, M.R.Srinivasan sounds confident about India’s capabilities so far to manage the nuclear power hazards but there will not be many takers for his claim that India is likely to enter into exchange safety related experiences with other nuclear power plant operators in other countries. But then this sort of co-operation is the very essence of all these international safeguards and also the moratorium voluntarily sought and imposed by the NSG and other bodies. What is the position of India as it is as the signing the CTBT and FMCT and also fall in line with renouncing forever the so-called freedom and sovereignty in weaponisation programmes? India cant play the role of an innocent in all these processes and certainly the common man has every right to ask: whether the deal is worth all these troubles when you claim to have some indigenous capability without surrendering your self-claimed sovereignty. Who can answer all these questions? India is also claiming its independence or independent foreign policy to co-operate with Iran. The US Senators have asked the President George Bush that the “continuation of the Indo-Iranian defence relationship would imperil all prospects of future civil nuclear co-operation with India”. So, what is the long-term prospects of this deal even if it is further “operationalised” as planned. Surely, it looks Mr.Karat, the CPI(M) leader tied himself in a tight situation without he also not knowing where all his heroics would lead him and his party’s electoral prospects too getting him nowhere! The last but not the least important question is the likely implications for the country’s strategic interests? Will India tie itself irrevocably with the USA defence and strategies goals? Will India lose out its independent foreign policy? Will India endanger its own strategic advantages vis a vis China? All these are not easy questions nor are they to be dismissed for the sake of immediate political advantages. Also, the public mood is not one that is comfortable and confident with Man Mohan Singh’s various defence postures so far. That is a rather unpleasant truth we have to keep in mind. He is not a political leader in his own right. He is the PM at someone else’s bidding. This the PM himself doesn’t hide and that is for the public to comprehend. Therefore, the several organisations like the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements and the India Centre for Human Rights and Law and others have jointly addressed 10 questions to the PM and they are perfectly the right questions for the public to ask and ponder over. Why this undue haste? Why rush without consultation with Parliament? What is the rationale for your new found enthusiasm? Can a developing country afford such high cost energy, right now? Wont you endanger India and other countries by aligning so closely with the deal and thereby opening the Indian seas and ports for the US ships to extend their wars into new territories, after Iraq, Afghanistan and now likely in Iran? Is the present situation right for such a high voltage deal? Is it right to hail George Bush in public ,now an unpopular man as the best friend of India? Are you not pushing India into a Nato-like tight grip of the US interests? India has advocated universal nuclear disarmament. So, why opt for nuclear weapons as mass destruction instruments? Are you not putting your personal prestige before the long-term interests of the country? Of course there are some positive changes in favour of nulcear power recently. The Economist magazine ran an editorial. Geopolitics, technology, economics and environment and also the depleting oil and gas in hostile territories and nuclear raw material in friendly territories, uranium reserves in Australia and Canada have made nuclear energy as a real alternative. However, India has to look at issues from its own point of view. And for god’s sake, let us also not forget that our otherwise highly talented nuclear scientists starting from Vikram Sarabhai to others who propounded a grandiose profile for nuclear power. Later Homi Sethna and all said that nulcear energy would be 4500 MW in 1985. In 2000 it was just 2,800 MW.(Technology at the Core-Science &Technology with Indira Gandhi: Ashok Pathasarathy).As pointed out by other energy experts there is now a lack of transparency, especially in the cost of our indigenous reactor construction. And that clouds our economic costs of alternative fuels. So, we have to be a bit skeptical, if not more critical, as to the great many benefits flowing from setting up nuclear plants. There is certainly a great deal to think of alternative routes to energy and also for our long-term future and also for the role of India in the service of mankind. Jimmy Carter has warned that “India’s leaders should make the same pledges and should also join the other nulcear powers in signing the CTBT”.I am sure there would be many(like myself) who choose to believe a person like Carter than our politicians now! Also one friend of India, Aaron Tovish, a disarmament expert, a former Director of Peace and Security Programmes with Parliamentarians for Global Action and who worked closely with Indian government on two major arms control initiatives, now in Hiroshima, has his own warnings to India. His message is: ”India has had a progressive leadership all along. Now why abandon your own leadership and ‘flirt’ with ‘great power’ unilateralism, it is a brief aberration’! Dr.Singh’s reputation in a crisis like the present one would be severely tested. Though he enjoyed the reputation of an economic expert, the country didn’t benefit to know what economic reforms are all about. He never took the trouble to explain the basic policies he belied in as good for the country. Now also, in an ironical way, he left us in great doubts as to his reasons for believing in the nuclear deal which he had to look his own pet project which it is not, in the first place. So, the PM only helped to accentuate the crisis situation and the atmosphere is certainly not conducive even for further economic progress. So, a clear early election is the better alternative to the present standstill. Any dispassionate observer of the controversies that surround the deal would see that the Left are no angels. They are trouble makers in tricky situations. Nor, the UPA and the PM in particular has rushed where some pause might have contributed to clear the many controversies and thereby created the present political crisis. Lack of real political experience is one factor in the PM’s lack of maturity in political leadership. Let us hope that wisdom dawns on the players on the political scene.