Bye, Bye, CPI — Update on Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal

As has been widely reported, the Communists and other left parties in the Indian Parliament are withdrawing support for the coalition UPA government. They are doing it in protest of PM Manmohan Singh’s decision to go forward with the July 2007 deal known as the 123 Agreement, which for now means going to the IAEA to neogotiate approval with that body (India also has to get approval from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and the U.S. Congress before the deal can be put into effect).

The Communists have 59 seats in the Indian Parliament, but luckily the Congress Party has been able to get the agreement of the regional Samajwadi Party, which holds 39 seats, to support the government in the event of a vote of no confidence. They only need the support of 44 MPs total to keep the government together, so things are looking good for both the Nuclear Deal and the UPA government. (Regular elections are scheduled to be held in May 2009; who knows what will happen then…)

Since this controversy first came up last year, I’ve been struggling to understand what the CPI is on about. Going to the CPI(M) website, the most detailed statement I can find at present is this one, which is itself more an enumeration of recent events than it is a substantive critique. The CPI claims to be greatly troubled that Manmohan Singh hasn’t released the details of the agreement it has submitted to the IAEA, but it seems hard to take this seriously, since the text of the 123 Agreement has been published, and is pretty clear on the mechanics of the deal. Every other objection falls along the lines of, “you aren’t listening to me!” To which one is tempted to respond, “Yes, and I’m the better for it.”

From DNA/Asian Age, I was able to find more coherent objections here. But most of those 9 points are arguable too, or based on a misreading of the actual text of the 123 Agreement. (See this blogger’s refutation of the 9 objections.)

I can’t help but think that the only meaningful objection, which trumps all of the Left’s other reasons, is the fact that the deal “required India to pursue a foreign policy congruent to that of the US.” In fact, that is not at all true. It is true that the deal marks a new level of cooperation (and strategic alignment) between the U.S. and India, but I don’t see why that would be a bad thing as long as India is free to work out its own position on issues like Iran.

I wrote a post in support the Nuclear Deal last summer, and I stand by it. India stands to benefit from the access to more nuclear fuel and technology, and the limitation the deal places on nuclear weapons testing is not onerous (as I understand it, India doesn’t really need to test any weapons anytime soon). Some valid objections were raised to the deal in the comments to that post, along the lines of environmental cost and general safety issues related to the use of nuclear power:

Why IS there a power shortage in Indian cities and villages?
IS nuclear power the solution?
What about the environmental costs?
What about the economic costs of nuclear power? (link)

But as far as I’ve seen — and I admit I am not really an expert on the utterances of Indian Communists — those are not the issues being talked about by Prakash Karat and company.

[Update: See Prakash Karat talking about the deal on YouTube here... I've only watched a few minutes of it thus far]

57 thoughts on “Bye, Bye, CPI — Update on Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal

  1. “You see they don’t dress like we do and their daughters study and travel on their own.”

    this is why I take umbrage when Muslim women in the West claim ‘religion’ for wearing a burqa. It is not a religious reason – it is a socio cultural reason. Now that I think of it- most of my Muslim friends have been non-Urdu speakers. Have a couple of Hindi speaking Muslim friends as well. So we have a clear difference between Urdu speaking Muslims and Non-Urdu Speaking muslims. I daresay that this translates into social and cultural mores with the Urdu speaking Muslims generally being more conservative.

  2. The deal should have been structured as an agreement with Nuclear Supply Group. The group may nominate USA or another country or a group of countries to do the negotiation for the deal and then approve the supplies to India. Then the issue in India could have been whether to source Uranium or not. In the present form the debate became cooperation with USA, which we are doing anyway, but yes Left is opposed to it. They want India to have more strategic relations with Russia and China and not USA. They are entitled to their view point. The coalition government should not have offended them.

    BJP says, congress government has not negotiated properly and hence opposes the deal. So one has to see who will succeed in their political ambitions.

  3. Thanks for belittling my knowledge at the end of your post, it must be fulfilling to do that and thereby establish your superiority. The point of my post was just to introduce some different perspectives which are often overlooked. This is a subject about which I’m still reading and learning.

    Rajeev as you say many people, other than communists, oppose the deal. Most of these folks use information from scientist/bureaucrat affiliated to the Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE). Homi Bhabha/Nehru tasked this department with the mission to provide power to people. They have failed in their mission and to cover up their failure they were the first out the block in criticizing the deal. Look up the amount of taxpayer money that they have wasted. Even if there are no weaponization benefits to this deal I would support it simply on the basis of saving a ton of money that could be diverted to …

    (DAE revised power goal was 20,000 MW by 2000. It delivers 1,500 MW.)

  4. Agree again with Rajeev, esp since chachaji’s frame of reference was Europe, where the nation state by any other name may indeed dissolve sooner rather thsn any later, because they are such very tiny nation states (which ought finally to be called provinces as they are in reality) and because they are totally out of proportion to the mega nations of today that some of them helped create while maintaining their separate identities past the expiration date. Also, it id highly unlikely that Indians of all classes and persuasions are even thinking about joining the world, as equals or otherwise. The huge problem is that so many of the Indian and NRI elite think that by signing on to this agreement they are “joining the world as equals.”

    OK, Amritaji, just a few counterpoints. It’s not so much that my frame of reference was Europe, but that the concept of the nation-state itself evolved in Europe. And it was, shall we say, fairly optimized (as a concept) to the size distribution of ‘countries’ and ‘kingdoms’ and ‘principalities’ of late Medieval Europe, and naturally, also their culture and ethos. If even those nation-states are now dissolving, and simultaneously ceding some powers to supranational entities and devolving others downward to city and local bodies, then civilizational entities such as India, which always existed with multiple overlapping sovereignties in the past (and even during the colonial period), but were shoe-horned into nation-states in the post-colonial aftermath – need even more to do the same thing. And thank goodness they are.

    And change is coming to India extremely fast – the highest generational ‘delta’ in the aspirational level today is with the lower and lower-middle classes. DDiA made some good points in this respect upthread. While it has been a commonplace to claim that the ‘middle class’ is the natural constituency for liberalization – it is actually the lower classes, which were locked out of the salariat, or found themselves at its lowest rungs, that are now beginning to become its strongest supporters. The logic of liberalization has upset pre-existing economic as well as social structures, and has begun to give more economic power as well as social clout to the ‘lowest rungs’. They naturally want more of it, and want it to go ahead. The Indo-US nuclear deal simply sets up an ‘enabling environment’ to meet these needs, both internationally/geostrategically; and nationally/infrastructurally.

    Amaun makes the good point that initially India’s atomic establishment found many reasons to oppose the deal, including the fact that it would open up some of their work to international scrutiny – and while they have also had some great successes (for example with the fast breeder reactor program), they’d just as soon not have to be accountable to anyone for the gap between their promises and performance more broadly.

    It all comes down to the ‘autarkic mindset’ – the most poisonous thing there can be when the zeitgeist screams ‘globalization’. Whether it is protectionism or anti-immigrant xenophobia or nativism in the West, or the extra-over-defensiveness and boulder-on-the-shoulder in India underpinning the anti-deal sentiment – they both reflect the autarkic mindset, and they all have to go.

  5. The 123 treaty, if it gets the green signal will contribute to just 2.5% of the energy demand by 2020. The noise is all about the rs. 60,000 cores in downstream investment that is not divided equally. Or it could be a cheap way to throw the comnies out from the Govt.

  6. It’s not so much that my frame of reference was Europe, but that the concept of the nation-state itself evolved in Europe. And it was, shall we say, fairly optimized (as a concept) to the size distribution of ‘countries’ and ‘kingdoms’ and ‘principalities’ of late Medieval Europe, and naturally, also their culture and ethos. If even those nation-states are now dissolving, and simultaneously ceding some powers to supranational entities and devolving others downward to city and local bodies, then civilizational entities such as India, which always existed with multiple overlapping sovereignties in the past (and even during the colonial period), but were shoe-horned into nation-states in the post-colonial aftermath – need even more to do the same thing. And thank goodness they are.

    Time to see that Europe has to catch up, chachaji.

  7. Amardeep, I read your refutation on CPI’s objections. Of course some of the CPI’s complaints are unfounded but so are most of your explanations too. Yes I agree they have used Hyde and 123 interchangably – but once you had established that in the 2nd point or so, you could have moved on to answer the content of their complains rather than the context of their claims. You conveniently ignored CPI’s explanation for item 9 – where they have meant to say that Hyde requires such a thing and the 123 does nothing to stop it. I believe its very convenient for the US to have tied a local regulation to an international treaty and foolish of indians to have agreed to something as vague as “will be subject to the Parties’ respective applicable laws, regulations, and license policies�!!! If the US president is not able to report to Congress as per Hyde that India is in full compliance (for whatever reason), this clause allows US without any liability to stop their end of the obligations in the treaty… Btw, they are not asking for the text of 123 agreement to be published (its contradictory for you to think so isnt it – because you had just answered their objections based on text in the 123 agreement). Rather they are asking for the text in the safeguards agreement that India has negotiated with the IAEA.