Indo-US Nuclear Deal

A Recipe For Blackmail

Nirmalangshu Mukherji

The current Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, is often credited with ushering in a new economic order (read ‘neoliberal era’) in India in the early 1990s. If credit is due to him, so is the responsibility for bringing the country to economic enslavement (read ‘imperialist control’) in the last two decades to the point of no return. Despite glowing certificates from economists such as Amartya Sen (The Hindu, 15 August), the fact remains that the economic policies initiated by Dr. Singh, and cheerfully pursued by the right-wing NDA government during its infamous rule (1999-2004), have left the country in an unprecedented state of inequality and impoverishment of the masses (Utsa Patnaik, A Republic of Hunger).

If there was one dominant factor in the remarkable general elections of 2004 which raised Dr. Singh to Prime Ministership, it is that people’s anger was targetted at the consequences of neoliberal economic policies initiated by Rajiv Gandhi-Narasimha Rao governments, continued by Deve Gowda-Gujral governments, and taken to the limit by NDA. The nexus between NDA and the Sangh Parivar, on the one hand, and US imperialism, pro-Israeli lobbies, mainstream media, Indian big business, and MNCs, especially financial corporations, on the other, has led to a class war between the elites and their hanger-ons (top 20%) and the rest of the people. Election 2004 was very much a non-violent expression of this class war (see my ‘Election 2004 and After’, Revolutionary Democracy, 10.2, October 2004).

More significantly for the issue in hand, the events just after the elections left no ambiguity about who controls Indian economy by now. Apprehending an imminent ‘socialist’ agenda with the Left agreeing to support the Congress government, foreign financial institutions and big business immediately threatened the ubiquitous flight of capital which led to a massive crash in the stock market. By then, Indian economy – like the earlier era in Latin American economies – had already become so dependent on imperialist coffers for maintaining high growth and employment rates (benefitting a small section of the people) that any perceived departure from the direct interests of international institutions was firmly disallowed. As a result, we watched the unholy spectacle of former finance minister, Mr Jaswant Sinha, and Dr. Singh joining hands to assure their ‘contacts’ in the financial oligarchy that no deviation from existing policy will be mooted. The markets jumped back to unprecedented highs and Dr. Singh was nominated as the Prime Minister. He wasted no time in filling almost the entire financial set up with his colleagues from the World Bank and the IMF. Tied down by a benign National Common Minimum Programme, the left has been a mute spectator to this attack on the people to serve international capital interests.

With the proposed nuclear deal with US, the stranglehold on economy is sought to be extended to the energy and the military spheres – a control that can only further serve the interests of the international monopoly capital in line with US’s ill-concealed geo-political ambitions. It is heartening to note that the left has finally risen – after two years of unexplained slumber – to its historical responsibility of resisting imperialist aggression.

It is important to be clear about the character – limits – of this delayed resistance. The nuclear deal – rather benignly titled ‘1-2-3 agreement’ as if it is some kind of an innocent game – promises regular supply of fuel material to maintain and enhance India’s nuclear capabilities ostensibly for the generation of nuclear energy only. While the conversation on the deal was started by US’s close ally in the subcontinent, the NDA regime, it was officially inaugurated with a Bush-Singh meeting in Washington in 2005. At that point, the spokesperson of the CPM, Mr. Sitaram Yechury, reportedly held that the left was neither in favour nor opposed to the deal; they wanted to wait for the actual text of the agreement. Now that the text has been made available, the left is opposed to certain clauses of the agreement.

Without wasting time on the fine-print, assume that the deal is rectified to assuage the left. It stands to reason that, at this point of time with the prospect of elections in West Bengal and elsewhere after the Nandigram massacre, the left will concede to almost any face-saving device. For the records, recall that, after much hue and cry, the left had agreed to the new EPF regime when the government agreed to raise interest rate from 8% to 8.5%. Nevertheless, assume further that the rectifications so enforced on demand from the left allows India to retain control over its nuclear facilities, especially the military ones.

But, once signed, the deal will be binding for half a century. Assuming regular supply of fuel despite India’s refusal to sign the non-proliferation treaty, nuclear energy could well become India’s mainstay in the energy sector in the years to come. Indian and foreign MNCs are already rubbing their palms in anticipation of capturing the nuclear energy market. Set aside the principled issue of whether nuclear energy should dominate the energy sector at all. Ignore also the moral – in fact, the historical – issue of whether one should enter into any deal with US even if it is a favourable one; US could be viewed as the biggest terrorist state in the history of humanity (Noam Chomsky, Failed States).

Even then, the point remains that, deal or no deal, the US can always walk out of the assurance to supply fuel. In recent years, the US not only ignored the Geneva convention and UN resolutions on terrorism, it walked out of the Kyoto protocol on the environment, the ABM treaty, and the biological warfare convention, among others (Richard Du Boff, 'Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest rogue of all?', Znet, 7 August 2003, for a comprehensive list of recent violations of international treaties by US). And the moment US walks out, the entire energy sector will be in jeopardy.

With virtual control of the energy sector, US will be in a position to enforce any economic, political and military regime on India. As a nuclear-junkey, India will not be able to resist the regular supply of nuclear fuel to the system and turn cold turkey. Addicts will do anything to keep the drug supply going.

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