123 Trilogy: Part 3

My recent two posts on the Indo-US Nuclear deal have been revised and expanded on The Great Indian Mutiny, as part of a Trilogy. It would be a good idea to read the first two parts before this one. Please see: 123 Trilogy: Part 1, and 123 Trilogy: Part 2.

We have examined the Indo-US deal in the political context in Part 1. We then studied it in a social context in Part 2. In this concluding Part 3, let us evaluate possible outcomes of the present imbroglio, by doing a SWOT analysis. The boundaries of this SWOT analysis are constrained by the Indian political scene – we will not consider events within the US, or IAEA/NSG, or examine other non-political aspects of the agreement.

Strengths

What reasoned arguments can be used to silence the opposition?

Opposition 1: The deal will not further Left’s strategic interests (including closer cooperation with communist countries), but instead will advance closer cooperation with the US and surrender our sovereignty to the imperialist US. Further, this will be deemed to have happened without the Left being taken into confidence or it being given a chance to make their concerns matter.

Response: Not entirely true. In fact, the opposite may become true. India may end up doing the most business with Russia, possibly some with the French, and none with the US. Why? Because no US supplier will sell anything to India until we pass a Liability Protection Law. Since the Left’s support will be required to pass any law in the present Government, it can virtually stop any business and cooperation with the US by voting against it. Such a law would not matter for Russia, because Russian companies are backed by government guarantees and are immune to liability lawsuits.manmo-sonia-newsss

Opposition 2: The Hyde Act has various restrictive clauses against India and undermines India’s sovereignty.

Response: We cannot do anything about the laws passed by another country, and we are not bound by those laws. What we can do something about and what we are bound by is the agreement or treaty that we enter into. India has signed the 123 agreement, not the Hyde Act. In cases of conflict, there are disputes over whether the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act will supersede the 123 Agreement or the other way around. There is no unanimous clear answer.

However, what really matters is that the US law does not matter much. In most cases, it is the diplomatic relationship that matters. The US is known to have bypassed and violated its own laws when required.

Opposition 3: All international treaties and agreements should be approved by Parliament before being signed by the Indian government.

Response: Good and valid point. We can take up this issue in Parliament and debate it. The current 123 agreement however, is the logical outcome of a strategic initiative by the previous opposition government (which was also prepared to sign the CTBT). It is therefore not a partisan agreement, but in harmony with the nation’s strategic interests as believed by the opposition as well.

Opposition 4: Nuclear energy is more expensive than other sources of energy like thermal, hydro, etc. Further, it will not meet a significant proportion of our energy requirements.

Response: Yes, but this is a narrow and myopic view. We need to explore all sources of energy, period.

Opposition 5: The 123 agreement does not allow India to conduct nuclear tests. If we conduct a nuclear test, our fuel supplies will be discontinued.

Response: The 123 agreement does not say anything about nuclear testing by India. If India feels nuclear testing is necessary, it retains its sovereign right to do so. But you cannot have your cake and eat it too. The scenario will not be different than it was before the 123 agreement. Rather, even if our supplies are cutoff by the US in the event of a nuclear test, the US has committed itself to help find other nations to restore our supply!

Opposition 6: The current American President may be satisfied by the reporting requirements and continue to uphold the 123 agreement. What is the guarantee that future American Presidents will do the same?

Response: There is no, and can be no guarantee. If the US were to call off the deal for whatever reasons, the worst case scenario is that we would be back into nuclear apartheid – as is the state today. (There are several other possibilities better than the worst case, even if the US were to back off in the future).

Also, conversely, if India at any point in the future, deems the 123 agreement as detrimental to its interests, we can terminate the deal with a 1-year notice. It is not binding upon subsequent Indian governments either.

Weaknesses

There is not much public awareness in India about the Indo-US nuclear deal. In the event of early elections, the nuclear deal is not likely to be a poll issue at all. This leaves the passage of the nuclear deal vulnerable to external factors that can influence elections, like terrorist strikes, organized protests against retail chains, and so on.

The Left is not open to reasoned debate because of ideological compulsions. The strengths listed above are probably, mostly impotent. Also, the possibility of the Left compromising its stand appear remote.

Opportunities

This is one opportunity for India to get rid of the Left. Two separate opinion polls have showed them getting much lower number of seats if fresh elections were held. This is not an opportunity for the deal per se, but certainly opens up lots of other opportunities!

Threats

The obvious threat is that the government will buy time and freeze any progress on the deal. This will lead to a deadlock and the Left would have achieved their statist ambitions. There will be an inordinate delay on any progress towards operationalizing the deal and India will have succumbed to the arm-twisting tactics of the Left.

leftcongress The other thr
eat is that the Left can withdraw support and bring down the UPA government. If that happens, there will be no progress on the agreement. Even though two independent polls suggest that the Left will lose significantly if elections were held, they’re quite capable of committing suicide with their myopic ideological glasses blurring all clarity. Another threat is that the Congress, sensing that it can get a much larger number of seats in a fresh election, will itself dissolve the Lok Sabha.

Summary

At this time of writing, the above SWOT analysis shows that, under the present political circumstances, it is difficult for the Indian government to operationalize the 123 agreement. Our politicians are infamously irrational, and we can never tell what will happen. But it will be a matter of national shame for all of us, if India as a nation doesn’t live up to its promises. We are going to simply talk the talk and let others walk all over us.

Photo Credit: Zee News, NDTV

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  • Aybuk: thanks for visiting! I was unable to comment on your post in detail on your blog, as it says that comments are disabled by a blog administrator.

    There are many things you say that I agree with, but also several that I disagree with. Your idea is a noble one. It may be termed as a ‘real-time democracy’. But I think we’re technologically as well as socially far behind before we can realistically think of it. Today, to get a single vote from each citizen in the nationwide Lok Sabha polls is such a mammoth exercise fraught with so many challenges, that to even consider participatory government where citizens vote for each legislative bill is, IMHO, naive and too far-fetched.

    I am also not sure if this kind of egalitarianism can work for a country where a significant proportion of the population is illiterate, below the poverty line, and has no awareness or education about what most of the legislative bills mean.

  • Aybuk: thanks for visiting! I was unable to comment on your post in detail on your blog, as it says that comments are disabled by a blog administrator.

    There are many things you say that I agree with, but also several that I disagree with. Your idea is a noble one. It may be termed as a ‘real-time democracy’. But I think we’re technologically as well as socially far behind before we can realistically think of it. Today, to get a single vote from each citizen in the nationwide Lok Sabha polls is such a mammoth exercise fraught with so many challenges, that to even consider participatory government where citizens vote for each legislative bill is, IMHO, naive and too far-fetched.

    I am also not sure if this kind of egalitarianism can work for a country where a significant proportion of the population is illiterate, below the poverty line, and has no awareness or education about what most of the legislative bills mean.

  • Being 10000 miles away, and 20 years removed, I cannot relate to all this that much, but isnt it more a “ideological stance” – i.e. any alignment with US is bad, bad and bad? So any amount of logical explanations would fall on deaf ears? Is the main opposition only from the Left or are there others with different perspectives?

  • I am not saying it will be easy. But does waiting for the people to improve may never work. All of us wants India to have wide roadways and clear lakes as in US or some other foreign country. But the truth is that we would always be stuck with narrow roads and traffic blocks. The problem is that we don’t have as much land area per person to splurge. In the same way, there are certain things Indian, that will always remain. There will be poverty and there will always be drunkards. We may reduce the amount of bribe, but still it will be there. Honest politicians will be a dream. We have around 100 million mobile phone users, and if at least half of them are able to voice their opinion then that would be a start. I mentioned participatory government, but that is a dream, I was talking about people voicing their opinion through the latest communication systems available so that the elected representatives know what people want and then vote based on that.
    Waiting for politicians to take the nation forward, while I do my job and sit back, is not something I am willing to do. I believe each and every person are responsible for the future of the nation. Instead of just electing a person and asking him to do the best he can, isn’t it better if we keep telling him if he is going to make a mistake?

    Btw, the comment system is working. I moderate the comment due to spam.

  • Very true about the liability protection law. In fact I was planning to write a post on that, but this post explains more about the whole scenario. Even the govt has clarified that the after the operationalisation of this deal, the first delegation will go to Russia and then to other countries. We will make new friends and retain old ones as well. As far as losing our soveriegnity is concerned, its not true. We have the right to conduct nuke tests if deemed necessary and they have the right to withdraw supply. Makes sense. By the way the Left has already lost its soveriegnity to China, what is it complaining about now?

  • Arun: Yes and yes to your first two questions – as I’ve already stated in my post. And yes, the main opposition is from the Left because they’re part of the government and can bring it down. The BJP is currently flip-flopping, but in my opinion they will not oppose operationalizing the agreement because large chunks of their constituencies support a closer partnership with the US.

    Aybuk: politicians already are aware of SMS polls, media opinion (print and tv), and the voice of the public. Telling them (by whatever means) what each person thinks is not going to make a difference to them! I admire your enthusiasm but you need to look at ground reality.

    Oemar: //Left has already lost its soveriegnity to China, what is it complaining about now?// Ha ha ha!!! 🙂
    I wish I could’ve come up with that line for my post!

    Powerkis: As I commented on your blog, I’m deeply honored and am grateful. Thanks!

  • //In cases of conflict, there are disputes over whether the 1954 US Atomic Energy Act and the Hyde Act will supersede the 123 Agreement or the other way around. There is no unanimous clear answer.//

    I’m not an authority on the law, so I might be wrong about this, Mahendra, but my strong recollection is that in the U.S., the Supreme Court typically rules that treaties supersede domestic laws.

  • Paul: that is what many ‘experts’ are saying here too, but there’s no real consensus on the matter. Thanks for the insight that it is actually the US Supreme Court that decides this. One of our educated and apparently knowledgeable Congress politician is saying the same thing, and it is his article that I’ve linked to. Thanks again for your opinion!