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India and the Nuclear Deal


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The Indian media space is buzzing with the one and only issue: the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. According to the media pundits, a better way of telling will be the ‘Spoilsport Left and the Indo-US Nuclear deal'! The media is overwhelmed and glad to finally discover a firm and will powered prime minister who recently went aloof from his official and political duties for days. We were told that this was his ‘Gandhian’ way to show anger, courage and determination against the ultimatum issued by the left to withdraw support if the government advances for signing the deal. It was also a message to some of the UPA allies who were against an early election. His act therefore, is a stern warning to the detractors that he will not budge to whatever pressure comes on his way to sign the deal even if the government falls. Is it not a humiliation if India backtracks now? Should not the Indian people line behind the Prime Minister and support him on this issue to safeguard the prestige and shining future of the country? The print and electronic media in a motivated manner is consistently trying to explain to the people of India in simplistic terms about the goodness of the deal officially known as Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006 or ‘The Hyde Act’. Any opposition to this act is viewed as sabotage to India's vital interests.

It is interesting to note that in his four years in office, Dr. Singh never found this boldness and determination to address various national issues. It seems that he was holding the chair only to augment the process of a wide strategic alliance with his former employer, the United States. The fact remains that in the pretext to meet India's nuclear energy needs, the Indo-US Nuclear Deal is actually a close strategic and military tie up covering political, economic and military cooperation with Washington. Through the deal, India will line up as a global partner with the evil designs of Washington in Asian subcontinent. The promises of this alliance came as a first hand proof when the Indian government surprisingly voted against Iran twice in 2005 in the International Atomic Energy Agency. Therefore, only fools and opportunists will believe that America's eagerness for the deal is for the benefits of India.

The primary objective put forward by Government of India is that the deal will help India ensure its growing need of electric power. The supporters of the deal are also arguing that India requires this deal to support speedy growth of the economy. At present India's nuclear power generation capacity is less than 3% of the total installed capacity of all its power plants. According to the ‘most optimistic scenario’ in the next 10 years predicted by a Planning Commission report, nuclear energy will be adding only 7% of India's total installed capacity. If we consider the buoyant figures tabled by the government, it will still be less than 9% if the deal gets going.

However, these predicted figures may not be a reality keeping in mind the cost factor involved in it. In all estimates, nuclear power is too expensive to benefit a poor country like India if compared with other cheaper sources of energy like thermal, hydro and renewable. The cost of building a nuclear power plant with domestic reactors is twice than a coal-fired thermal power plant. It simply means that by spending the same amount of money we can generate double MW of electric power from thermal plants. The cost difference will shoot up more if we compare indigenous coal-fired plants with nuclear plants having imported reactors. After signing the deal, India will not get nuclear fuel or reactors free or even at a low cost but at the prevailing market price. Therefore, obviously the cost of electricity coming from nuclear power plants will be much higher than electricity produced from the indigenous thermal plants.

In addition, to pump in more public money to run the nuclear plants other infrastructure sectors of India must go deprived from funds. There will also be other potential hazards and the serious problem of disposing nuclear wastes. Even US has not yet come up with a full proof nuclear waste disposal system. Another argument raised by some environmentalist experts is that nuclear energy will help to control global warming. This is a peculiar one. Should we then start building new nuclear plants everywhere and everyday?

Quite rightly, some of our nuclear scientists have raised serious concern on the deal. Their area of fear is mainly that this deal will baffle India's indigenous and well-merited thorium based nuclear program. It may also jeopardize the possibility to expand and pursue nuclear technologies in future for India's own benefits. Another major concern is that the existence of India's independent nuclear program will not remain sovereign any more when US nuclear experts will have an open access to India's nuclear facilities and the external supervision will definitely deter the independence of its nuclear program. This will widen up the possibility of India's nuclear program secrets to leak out. India is still a non-signatory of the Nuclear-Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). For the last 38 years, India has not complied with any external interference in its nuclear program. According to the deal, this sovereignty will definitely be in a question.

Dr P K Iyengar, Dr A Gopalakrishnan and Dr A N Prasad, all senior and highly respected scientists have commented in a recent (June 2008) press release:

Analysts have convincingly shown that this additional power will come at a much higher cost per unit of electricity compared to conventional coal or hydro power, which India can generate without foreign imports.

Once the deal is in place, it is also clear that India's commercial nuclear interactions with the US, as well as with any other country, will be firmly controlled from Washington, via the stipulations of the Hyde Act, 2006, enforced through the stranglehold which the US retains on the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

The real issue facing India, therefore, is whether or not we want this mythical extra ‘energy security’ through this deal, paying almost thrice the unit capital cost of conventional power plants, with the additional burden of subjugating.

From some blocks, this criticism of the nuclear scientists is viewed as a partisan outlook. Is it not the responsibility of these experts to advise the nation and its people on a highly technical matter like the nuclear deal? This advice has derived from their particular knowledge and experience that is of course more reliable than the blabbers of the economist Prime Minister or the opportunist politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mulayam did a volte-face from his earlier stand on the deal and his relations with the Congress party following his right hand man Amar Singh's return from the US a week back. After a highly publicized meeting with the technocrat ex President of India Abdul Kalam, Mulayam has expressed that he is totally convinced today that the deal is good for the country. Obviously, his conviction has not originated from a deep study and understanding of the nuclear deal. It has evoked from the dark chambers of Indian political biosphere where some other deal was settled.

Is this Indo-US Nuclear Deal, also termed as Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, really about civilian nuclear cooperation? Today, what the Left is pointing towards a grave future situation will be clearer to all the citizens of this country after the deal starts rolling. Slowly and systematically, the US will start promoting its strategic domestic and foreign policy objectives in Asia from the Indian soil. The indications are sufficiently clear even today from the India-US joint military exercises such as the one that took place in the Kalaikunda air base in West Bengal. Next, the Chennai port became the anchorage of the nuclear powered aircraft carrier ‘Nimitz’. This military exercise was extended to the ‘quadrilateral’ exercises involving US, Japan and Australia. We can understand the basic US strategy concerning India from this Pentagon study ‘Indo-US Military Relations: Expectations and Perceptions’. According to this report: “The Indians will laud the relationship as a success if they obtain the technology that they want from the United States. We (the US military) will view the relationship as a success if we are able to build a constructive military cooperation programme that enables us to jointly operate with the Indians in the future. " Therefore, after signing the nuclear deal US will start pursuing and pressurizing for military contracts. India will one day find itself entwined with this strategic and commercial designs of the US and after falling into their grip will become a lucrative client and loyal satellite of the US.

As stated by Joseph Cirincione of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “. . . . . what it tells us of the U. S. grand strategy, and that behind whatever else is going on here the U. S. is preparing for a grand conflict with China and constructing an anti-China coalition. . . . . In that scenario, India is even more valuable as a nuclear power, rather than as a non-nuclear country. "

The days may not be far away when we will see the US military directly or indirectly in service from their base on Indian soil. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress party are deeply committed to their role as the US agent in India for constructing this strategic US base.


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