People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 10

March 05, 2006



Beware of the Carrot and Stick Policy


As we go press (March 2, 2006),  massive  protest demonstrations  are greeting  the US President, George Bush, on his first State visit to India.  All across the country,  large number of people,  displaying a high degree of spontaneity have come on to the streets decrying  US imperialism and condemning  its  military aggressiveness.  The palpable anger  was reflected against its continued  military occupation of Iraq and the brazen manner in which it is targeting Iran and other countries listed in its self-declared “axis of evil”.  These protest actions (reports are published elsewhere in this issue) highlighted  the  current role of US imperialism in seeking to impose its hegemony over the world using  all available  means and methods.   This growing anti-US imperialist consciousness  amongst the Indian people  is the surest guarantee to safeguard and strengthen   India’s economic and political sovereignty in the future. 


While  these protests will continue  when  Bush visits Hyderabad tomorrow, at New Delhi,  in a joint press conference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush  issued the Indo-US joint statement.  The statement covers  a wide range of issues deepening cooperation between the two countries.  They mainly include seven areas : energy; agriculture; science and technology; trade and investment;  high technology; health; and environment.  The fine print of these agreements will have to be studied  in order to make a proper analysis and evaluation. 


However,  many apprehensions arise  concerning the agreements on agriculture and bio-technology.  These concerns rest on the fact that  unlike in the past, say at the time of the Green Revolution in India,  scientific applications in agriculture came from research and development that was predominantly in the public domain.  Today’s bio-technology  advances  come almost entirely  from  the private domain.  Hence, private research institutions  tied to  US multinational corporations like Monsanto  could well end up ensuring their dominance over India’s agriculture.  Further,  joint conduct of research  with such US entities  may well lead, under the US patent regime, to a situation where these entities will hold the Intellectual Property Rights.  This will deny India  its rights to indigenous genetic resources.  Such dangers will have to be  met and India’s sovereignty in all these spheres   must not be compromised. 


The centre-point  of this visit, however,  has been  what is commonly referred to as the  nuclear deal.  Readers will recall that India  and the USA  had entered into an agreement  on July 18, 2005  when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited USA on Civil Nuclear Cooperation.  Much discussion has taken place in our country, justifiably,  on the contents of such a deal.  The Prime Minister,  as a result, felt obliged to make a Suo moto  statement in both the Houses of the Parliament, last week, assuring that the Parliament will not be kept in the dark and  any agreement that will be signed  will uncompromisingly uphold India’s sovereignty in matters of nuclear energy and research.  The details of the deal and the fine print of the agreement have not been made public as we go to press. 


During the course of the debate that has been taking place in the country, the CPI(M) had made its position on the issue clear.  Let us recollect in short.  Any civil nuclear cooperation  which will enhance India’s nuclear energy capabilities cannot come at the cost of India surrendering its sovereignty on this matter.  Thus, the separation of nuclear facilities between  civilian and military  is a decision  that  should  and will be  only  in India’s domain  and will not be done at the behest of the USA.  India, today, has  fifteen  nuclear power plants in  operation and seven more  scheduled for completion by 2009.  The separation of these between civilian and military  is a precondition for any agreement in the sense  that those under  the civilian facilities will be subject to international safeguards and inspections to ensure  that they are not  being used for nuclear weaponisation.  Those reactors  which are designated as military facilities  are not subject to such safeguards or inspections.  The USA has been pressurising India to place all, if not the great majority of these,  in the civilian  list.   However, as stated above, CPI(M) insists that this is the decision that India must take independently and not under US pressure. 


The main bone of contention has been the “fast breeder reactor” at Kalpakkam.  These reactors use  spent fuel  from existing  heavy water reactors  to process  plutonium.  The heavy water reactors  use uranium as its fuel which India has to mainly import  given the fact that we do not have sufficient uranium resources.  The conversion of the spent fuel into plutonium and its subsequent conversion  towards using thorium as a nuclear fuel has a great import  for India.  India is one of  the countries of the world which has the largest known reserves of  thorium.   If we are able to develop a thorium-based nuclear fuel, then our dependence on other countries for the import of uranium significantly reduces.  India could well  become self-sufficient  in its needs for nuclear fuel thus,  freeing India from the bondage of  pressures and blandishments from imperialism on this score.  The CPI(M) maintains  that these fast breeder reactors cannot be brought under the civilian list and thus subjected to safeguards and inspections which may delay, disrupt  and finally thwart India’s quest for self-sufficiency in nuclear fuel.


Thirdly, CPI(M) maintains  that unless the US Congress amends its laws and the nuclear suppliers group of countries  adjusts its guidelines to permit India  facilities under this deal, India  should not unilaterally  proceed on  this matter.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured both the houses of the Parliament  that any changes that India will make in classifying its nuclear installations will be based on a reciprocity from the US side. 


Fourthly, CPI(M) has maintained that India should not approach  the IAEA for an India specific Safeguard Agreement and adopt an Additional Protocol unless the US Congress amends its laws. 


If all these concerns had been addressed in India’s favour in the nuclear deal,  then  the natural question that arises is why has the USA  singled out India for such preferential treatment?  What are the hidden costs? 


One immediate explanation is that a consequence of this deal  would mean a rapid expansion of India’s nuclear energy which requires the buying of new reactors, mainly from the USA.  These could be deals worth thousands of millions of dollars.  May be, the USA sees a lucrative bargain!


Apart from this, however, there is another serious apprehension.  If and when such a deal is operationalised,  then India  could be subjected to constant pressures on the score that  the continuation of  this arrangement  would be  subject to India  toeing the US line  on other matters.  This could well be the political cost that India cannot afford to bear or should not afford to accept. 


The country has already seen the open blandishments of the US Ambassador to India that  if India does not vote  in favour of the USA and against Iran in the IAEA, then the nuclear deal shall not take place. The US Congress is notorious for changing its decisions  in order to put pressure on independent countries to toe its line, like the by now infamous Pressler Amendment.  Such dangers are real.   If India were to succumb to such US imperialist pressures, then that is the end of India’s independent foreign policy. More importantly,  this could signal the beginning of the end of India’s leading role  in the group of developing countries. More specifically,  India in South Asia, would be under constant pressure to act as the US surrogate. In the larger context of  US global strategy that defines  the containment of China  as one of its principal elements,  India succumbing to US pressures  may well open other areas of tensions and conflicts that the country can ill-afford.  The carrot of the nuclear deal  should not entice India  to be prepared to be beaten  by the US imperialist stick  to fall in line.  India, under this UPA government, must beware of  this  eminent danger.  Any compromise of our independent foreign policy, a commitment made in the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme, can neither be  accepted nor tolerated. 


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured that he will clarify the matters in Parliament, which is now in session.  If any of the above concerns are breached  in the Indo-US nuclear deal, then, needless to add,  the CPI(M) will stoutly oppose them.