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]