By K. Subrahmanyam
India can meet all challenges of 123 pact
Congressman Howard Berman, a known opponent of Indo-US nuclear deal and Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee has released the answers furnished by the State Department to his predecessor Tom Lantos on the questionnaire Lantos had sent to the State Department.
The reply was sent in January 2008. Though it was not a classified document, the recipient was asked to keep it confidential in view of the sensitive nature of the replies. Obviously, this was a reference to the debate in India on the Indo-US nuclear deal and the strong emotions it had generated.
Now Berman has deliberately released it in the hope it will complicate the issue at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in Vienna on September 4 and 5.
As expected by the opponents of the deal in the US, the release of the letter has generated the expected reactions in India from the BJP leadership and the Left. Demands have been made for a special session of Parliament and even for the resignation of the government on moral grounds.
The charge is that the government, particularly the Prime Minister, misled the House. But for an impartial and apolitical observer, such a charge appears totally untenable.
It is said that the State Department document makes it clear that in case of India conducting a test, the US will cease all nuclear cooperation and demand to take back its equipment and fuel. This is held as inhibiting India's right to test. No. It does not take away India's right to test which is inherent in India's sovereignty.
But there will be consequences if India conducts a test as there were in 1998. Any future Prime Minister who wants to test will take into account all possible consequences before ordering it.
Neither the Indo-US deal nor the proposed NSG waiver binds India in a multilateral commitment not to test. India will continue to have its sovereign right to test.
Article 14 of the 123 Agreement lays down the procedure for cessation of cooperation in case India carries out a test. It will not be automatic but will involve consultations and consideration whether the Indian test was due to changed security environment or similar action by other powers.
Therefore, there is an implied acceptance that there may be circumstances in which India may be justified to test. This is the only international treaty that recognises contingent possibilities of India testing.
The US document makes it clear that the US will cease all supply of fuel in case of a test. The opponents to the deal point out that this will come in the way of India having assured fuel supplies. Surely, India will not think of testing without building up a strategic fuel reserve.
The strategic fuel reserve will not necessarily be built on US supplies only. Once the NSG waiver is obtained, India will be in a position to enter into commerce with other countries which are in a position to supply fuel.
It is highlighted that the State Department document points out that the US administration is bound by the Hyde Act. It will be bound by the Hyde Act till the Congress approves the 123 Agreement which will supercede the provisions of the Act as it is an international treaty and also it is passed later.
The US Supreme court has held that international treaties override local laws. It is also a well known principle in law that if there is a contradiction between an earlier and later laws, the later law will prevail. So when the US Congress passes the 123 Agreement that will supercede the Hyde Act
The third issue is the assertion in the State Department replies that the US has no plans to transfer to India sophisticated enrichment and reprocessing technologies. The US does not transfer such technologies to any country in the world, including its closest allies.
But the 123 Agreement leaves a possibility of a future amendment for the purpose. However, India hopes that with the NSG waiver, the country will be able to get such technologies from other nuclear powers.
The US, Russia and the UK are the framers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and founders of the London Suppliers Club, the predecessor of the NSG. Today those powers are moving to incorporate India in the non-proliferation regime to make it near universal leaving only Pakistan out of it.
All but three nations of the world are members of the NPT. The three stay-outs are Israel, India and Pakistan. Israel is not interested in civil nuclear commerce. Pakistan, as President Gerorge W. Bush pointed out, has a different history as a proliferator.
India is a country with advanced nuclear technology and has an impeccable non-proliferation record. Therefore, the major nuclear powers are interested in making India a stakeholder in the near universal non-proliferation regime, though they cannot admit India as a weapon power in the NPT without amending the Treaty. They are afraid of amending the Treaty lest the whole treaty should unravel. Therefore, this device of unique waiver for India!
The Left as well as those still conditioned by the Cold War are unable to come to terms with the radical changes in the international system. They are still looking upon India as a victim of US pressure and strategic manipulation.
In today's world, India has considerable leverage and it is respected in the international community.
Kanchan Gupta in Pioneer:
The PM stands diminished
As Thursday's meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna concluded without a 'consensus' on accepting the redrafted American proposal for waiving the rules that prohibit trade in nuclear technology and fuel with India, Mr William Burns, the US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, whose services have been requisitioned by Washington to convince recalcitrant countries that wisdom lies in enabling the formal conclusion of the 123 Agreement, put a risible spin on continuing objections voiced by Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland. "I believe we are making steady progress in this process and we will continue to make progress," he told mediapersons, among them gullible journalists representing Indian newspapers and television channels.
It is anybody's guess as to whether the nay-sayers in the NSG will eventually accept the revised US draft and settle for the considerable concessions that have been made to appease non-proliferation hawks and curtail India's sovereign right to decide its nuclear policy, including its strategic deterrence component. Indeed, it would be a folly to under-estimate America's persuasive powers which are not necessarily linked to over-the-board, across-the-table diplomacy.
Look at the way it has managed to foist on us a so-called 'civilian nuclear cooperation agreement' that will revive the moribund American nuclear power industry, create thousands of jobs (which will not be open to holders of H1B visa, so there's little reason for our middle-class to cheer the deal), give President George W Bush his only foreign policy 'success', and serve the purpose of forcing India into the non-proliferation regime without conceding its nuclear weapons capability. A full 10 years after being caught unawares as India conducted a series of five nuclear tests on May 11 and 13, 1998, the US is about to extract sweet revenge, if not retribution, for that act of stupendous defiance.
It would, however, be unfair to blame the US alone for India's straitjacketing in so crafty and sly a manner. Governments are meant to protect their national self-interest and further their national agenda: There is little or no space for morality and ethics in international affairs; ruthless geopolitics does not countenance timidity although the powerful nations are not averse to doing business with obsequious regimes because they can ride roughshod over them.
If the US has succeeded in imposing upon us what Americans call a 'bum deal' or selling us what used car dealers in that country refer to as a 'lemon', it is because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has willingly accepted it. In the process, he has not only compromised India's strategic interests but also wilfully misled a billion people. Not given to niceties, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat has been less circumspect with his choice of words while accusing Mr Singh of "cheating" and "lying" over the nuclear deal.
Nothing illustrates this point better than the Prime Minister's suppression of the real facts and full implications of the India-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, which have now been revealed with Mr Howard L Berman, chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, making public the 'confidential' letter that had been sent by the Bush Administration to his predecessor, the late Tom Lantos, on January 16, 2008. It explains in detail American 'commitments' and Indian 'concessions' while arguing the case for the 123 Agreement. It also exposes the gulf that separates the various 'commitments' made by the Prime Minister in Parliament from the facts as perceived by the Americans. In brief, it proves that Mr Singh has been economical with the truth.
The drumbeaters of the Government have responded predictably, seeking to put a spin -- no less risible than that of Mr Burns' -- on the disclosure and thus obfuscate its real meaning: That the Prime Minister did not tell all while presenting the deal as a 'boon' for India. The same arguments have been reiterated: "It is an internal document of the US Administration"; "We are guided by the 123 Agreement"; "There's nothing new about the conditions"; and, "We cannot go beyond our commitment to Parliament, commitment made by the Prime Minister and commitment made by ourselves". The last refers to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's robust defence of the nuclear deal on All India Radio. It is another matter that Mr Mukherjee's assurances have proved to be false in the past; there is no reason why he should be taken seriously now.
Little purpose will be served by repeating all the points on which Mr Singh has misled the nation even if space were to permit such listing. The salient points would suffice to demonstrate that the apprehensions of those who have been steadfastly opposed to the deal because of its flaws are not unfounded. For instance, the letter makes it abundantly clear that the US has not given any legally binding nuclear fuel-supply assurance to India, only "presidential commitments" subject to American law. Now contrast this with what Mr Singh said in the Lok Sabha on August 13, 2007. He stressed on "detailed fuel supply assurances" by the US for "the uninterrupted operation of our nuclear reactors". Mr Singh cannot claim ignorance of the American perception or understanding of the 123 Agreement because the letter clearly says, "We believe the Indian Government shares our understanding of this provision."
Recall also how the Prime Minister assured the Lok Sabha the same day that "this Agreement envisages, in consonance with the Separation Plan, US support for an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply for the lifetime of India's reactors". This is totally at variance with the Bush Administration's communication to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which says India will not be allowed to stockpile such nuclear fuel stocks as to undercut American leverage to re-impose sanctions. To drive home this point, it says the 123 Agreement is not inconsistent with the Hyde Act's stipulation -- the little-known 'Barack Obama Amendment' -- that the supply of nuclear fuel should be "commensurate with reasonable operating requirements". The 'strategic reserve' that is crucial to India's nuclear programme is, therefore, a non-starter.
Last, but not least, recall the Prime Minister's declaration in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2008: "I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing." And what does the Bush Administration's letter say? "As outlined in Article 14 of the 123 Agreement, should India detonate a nuclear-explosive device, the United States has the right to cease all nuclear cooperation with India immediately, including the supply of fuel, as well as request the return of any items transferred from the United States, including fresh fuel."
The India-US nuclear deal is no longer only about how it compromises India's sovereign rights and strategic interests. It is also about the integrity of those who have facilitated its imposition on India. Regrettably, the Prime Minister stands diminished with a questionable integrity quotient.