People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 12

March 19, 2006



Institute Special Parliamentary Committee For Wider Discussion


Following is the text of the speech made by Nilotpal Basu, leader of CPI(M) in Rajya Sabha on March 11, 2006 while participating in the discussion in the House on the statement made by the prime minister on Indo-US nuclear agreement.


SIR, at the outset, let me state this is perhaps my last major intervention in a debate in this House. It is also fortuitous that we are debating today and I am having the opportunity to speak on a subject whose import is so momentous for the future of this country that you can say that this is a make-or-break debate. At the end of the day, we should come out of this debate with some kind of a unanimity and consensus, because this is a debate about, I quote the prime minister, "enlightened national interests", and if this House does not represent 'enlightened national interests', who will? 


On March 7, when the prime minister placed this statement on the floor of the House, we have pointed out that the discussion that we are going to have on this goes much beyond the nitty-gritty of the nuclear agreement. I will come to that also.  But, the nature of the statement, together with the separation plan and the Joint Indo-US Statement, which was also placed on the floor of the House, actually describe a new contour, a new paradigm, in terms of our relationship with the United States and where India stands vis-a-vis the contemporary world. Therefore, I think this whole question of the Agreement on Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation cannot be discussed in isolation to the far larger and wider ramifications that this entire set of documents have thrown up. Sir, immediately after the  prime minister spoke we said that it would have been better had those documents --- regarding other aspects of the relationship with the United States which have been described in the Joint Statement --- also been made available to us. For example, the Indo-US CEO Forum document; nobody knows what this 24-point Action Plan is. Today, we see in the newspapers that the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission has already announced that there will be 24 Working Groups to work out the specific details of actualising and putting into action each of these recommendations which has been made by the Indo-US CEO Forum.  Is this correct?  When we have started a momentous journey, is it correct to keep Parliament in the dark? I think we would have greatly benefited had we been given all those documents, which unfortunately are not with us. 


Sir, let me start with the Joint Statement itself.  Dr Karan Singhji has urged all of us not to see the world through the Iraq prism. Sir, I quote from the Joint Statement what we will jointly do with the US. The sub-heading is "Deepening Democracy and Meeting International Challenges.

"(1) Recalled their joint launch of the UN Democracy Fund in September 2005 and offered the experience and expertise of both governments for capacity building, training and exchanges to third countries that request such assistance to strengthen democratic institutions."

"(2) Welcomed the decision of India and the United States to designate a representative to the Government Advisory Board of the International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT) located in Budapest to facilitate cooperative activities with ICDT."


I think, everybody is aware in the international politics today, what this International Institute is all about. We know who runs it. The Central Intelligence Agency is an entity of which we, in India, are very well aware. It is well documented. They have tried to disrupt democratic processes in different parts of the world including in India. Now, what kind of democracy, freedom and values we share with the United States? The other day the prime minister was kind enough to categorically say that our country does not agree with the efforts at regime change. But what kind of freedom and democracy is the US spreading throughout the world? President Bush used our soil at the Purana Quila, to tell the whole world that they are for regime change in Iran, Cuba, Syria, Zimbabwe etc.  Now, do we share those lines? If not, what are we celebrating about this Democracy Fund? Condoleezza Rice says to the whole world openly, "We will spend 85 million dollars to effect a regime change in Iran." What do we share jointly with the American government on this question?  The prime minister must explain to us. 


Then, the agreement on agricultural research. We know that in this age of scientific and technological revolution unless there is international cooperation we can't go ahead.  Today no single scientist gets the Nobel Prize, it is usually a collective and joint effort on the same subject; hundreds of laboratories work jointly. But the question is: Who will control technology? That is a question which is defined by the political power balance. When we go to the WTO meetings, what is our position on agriculture or IPRs; why do we say that developed countries are controlling technology and using it to the disadvantage of developing countries; why do we complain that our farmers cannot compete with the farmers of Europe and North America because of the heavy subsidy that these governments provide?


We cannot distort the reality that the world today presents. It is a very vital question how the agricultural research agenda will be set by all these multinationals.  Earlier, in the Green Revolution technology, the entire emphasis was on how to extend those new technologies to common farmers because the entire research was in the public domain. Today, in country after country, in Asia, Africa, Latin America --- why are political changes taking place? Because these Monsantos, these Dow Chemicals, these BSAF, these Walmarts, have been looting those countries, and now there is a backlash of the people, and you see the governments changing, political changes taking place in the backyard of the United States. Therefore, I think, these are very serious issues on which there has to be a sufficient public debate because our position in the WTO on all these questions and the kind of agreements that we have are at odds with each other.




We have heard a new terminology that has been used by the prime minister in his statement on February 27, 2006 on the eve of the Indo-US Agreement: "The joint statement offered the possibility of decades-old restrictions being set aside, to create space for India's emergence as a full member of a new nuclear world order."  What is this new nuclear world order? I do not understand because, so far, India was talking about global nuclear disarmament. What was the problem with that global nuclear order? Essentially, that the world was divided into nuclear haves and nuclear have-nots, and it is a discriminatory regime where the nuclear haves will dominate, will dictate the pace of development. I hope that the prime minister has not tried to suggest, through this reference, that by co-option of India in this exclusive nuclear club, the discriminatory nature of the global nuclear regime has been reversed. We are staking our claim for the membership of the United Nations' Security Council. What is our plank? Our plank is that we are a strongly emerging developing country. But, we are a country which is more capable than anybody else to represent the interests of the 100-plus developing countries of the world today. We add to their strength, we add to their voice. Now, you tell me, if we have such a stake, if we have such a claim, will our being co-opted in the nuclear club and our legitimising that nuclear club, endear us favourably to these 100-plus developing countries of the world? There is no mention of that. However, the newly acquired status will be used to protect the monopoly of nuclear haves. That concern, somehow, does not get captured in the formulation of new Nuclear World Order. 


The question is that India will have a nuclear doctrine, that India will have a minimum deterrent; that is okay.  Individually, India may also be coming out of the immediate question of discrimination.  But we believe that no nuclear war can be fought. We fundamentally differ that a nuclear deterrent is any deterrent. There is only one word "Mutually Assured Destruction" the acronym of which is very significantly 'mad', which is the outcome of a nuclear confrontation.  The whole world should really aim at creating a situation where nuclearisation does not take place, where the world does not lead to a nuclear confrontation. We have no fundamental opposition to the notion of the Separation Plan. But the whole question of civilian nuclear energy as the only option for our energy security; that is the thrust of the whole argument.  I have an information which I want to share with the House that the US Energy Information Agency came out with a Report sometime back, showing some figures about the emerging global trends --- the total global energy production and the contribution of nuclear energy as a component of the total energy. I have no fight against nuclear energy.  But what I am saying is that the one-dimensional attention and the thrust on nuclear energy in solving our energy problems are completely misplaced.  What are the figures?  They say that up to 2025 — the reference case which is given by the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) — “The global installed power will rise from 3,318 gigawatts in 2002 to 5,495 gigawatts by 2020-25. Over the same period, the installed nuclear capacity will rise more modestly from 361 gigawatts to 422 gigawatts, as nuclear power in total installed capacity will fall from 10.9 per cent in 2002 to 7.7 per cent by 2020-2025."


Now, the question is what were we doing about our nuclear energy? Didn't we spend time in really developing and generating our nuclear energy? The following are figures from government documents, giving the break-up of the installed capacity of energy in this country as on 20.2.2005. Of the 1, 16, 245 megawatts that we generate, 2,720 megawatts come from nuclear sector, i.e., is 2.35 per cent of the total.  The Twenty- Third Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy in 1995-96 said: "The Department of Atomic Energy, in 1984, had set for itself a target of 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power capacity at the turn of the century." So, we had a plan for 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power by the turn of the century. That is, against the 2.6 per cent,  now would have reached a level of 10 per cent. When the whole world will still be at 7 plus percentage in 2025, we would have reached 10 per cent by the turn of the century. Why didn't this happen?


The Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy of 1999-2000 says, "A number of nuclear projects in the country are getting delayed primarily due to lack of funds." So it is not due to lack of access to nuclear fuel.  "In the present scheme of things funds are being made available to the Department only after a project is sanctioned.  As a result, the Department is not able to carry out the pre-project activities prior to the sanction of a project.  This, in turn, results in longer gestation period for nuclear power projects. In this context, the Committee recommends that prior to the sanction of a project, the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance should consider the feasibility of making a provision of 5-10 per cent of the project cost in the Budget of the Department so as to enable it to carry out pre-project activities beforehand." 


What were we told in 2000-01? A Standing Committee Report says, "The exercise carried out by the Department of Atomic Energy, as part of 'Vision 2020', aims at setting up about 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power generating capacity in India by 2020." So, the target period was shifted by 20 years and the capacity was doubled. Again, nowhere in the report do we find the mention of lack of access to nuclear fuel as the major reason for our programme getting retarded. 


Then we come to the Standing Committee Report of 2003-04. 'The present nuclear share of electricity production in India is to be viewed in the context of the development phase requiring significant efforts and time that the country had to go through in the nuclear power sector, despite the technology denial regime prevalent internationally in this field.  While the present share of nuclear electricity is small, nuclear energy has the potential to meet a significant part of the future needs of electricity. With the completion of the projects under construction, progressively by December 2008, the total nuclear capacity in the country will be 6,680 megawatts. Additional projects are contemplated to be taken up in future for construction so as to reach a total nuclear power capacity of 10,000 megawatts by the end of the Eleventh Plan and about 20,000 megawatts by 2020.” The projected nuclear energy production in India was more than the average which prevails globally. And this was despite the technology denial regime.  Therefore, the prime minister has to give more explanation. 




Now, I come to the separation plan. On page 8, it says, "The United States is willing to incorporate assurances regarding fuel supply in the bilateral US-India agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy under Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act.” Has anyone gone through these provisions of the US Energy Act? I don't think most of my friends in this House will be able to answer this affirmatively. What does the US Energy Act say? First of all, it says, "No cooperation with any nation, group of nations or regional defence organisations pursuant to Sections 53, 54 (a), 57, 64, 82, 91, 103, 104 and 144 shall be undertaken." This is the American Act.  We do not know these provisions.  Then Section 123 (2) says, "In the case of non-nuclear weapon States a requirement as a condition of continued United States nuclear supply under the agreement for cooperation that IAEA safeguards be maintained with respect to all nuclear materials in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State under its jurisdiction or carried out under its control anywhere."  It is such an omnibus provision. 


There was a great ruckus in this country created by those who were supporting the effort of the government to reach out to President Bush!  But following the publication of the interview of Dr Anil Kakodkar, who is the DAE Secretary, all hell broke loose. There were articles after articles saying, "He is a betrayor; he is not a patriot. He does not understand the great significance of this journey", and so on and so forth.  These issues are too serious to be left, for two Economic Editors to decide.  I have the greatest regard for our nuclear scientists. There are many of them and the fact that we have developed an independent nuclear programme notwithstanding the international adversaries is in itself a great tribute to them.  But is it enough?  Is the issue only technical?  Or, are there strategic aspects?  What kind of relationship will we share with the United States. How will we pursue an independent foreign policy?  The question of our energy security is involved. The question of our food security is involved.  Is it a matter which can be left alone to the government and technical experts? 


What is the way out?   If we look at Page 6 of the Separation Plan, the last point of Para 12 which is in bullets, the Separation Agreement says, "Must be acceptable to Parliament and public opinion."  This is a great formulation which is made in this Separation Agreement.  What we are saying is that the Americans are taking their own sweet time, and they have time and again terminated bilateral agreements and multilateral agreements showing Congressional disapproval.  Therefore, my most fervent appeal to the prime minister is, create a special parliamentary committee where we can call everybody.  This provision is there in the Agreement; so, you will not be breaching it.  And that is the real reciprocity.  If the American Congress can take their own sweet time to approve what you have jointly come together -- there are issues which are really of a very, very momentous nature -- we cannot take these things lightly.  There has to be a structured engagement across the political spectrum and across the informed and technical opinion and expertise that we have available in the country today.


Therefore, I think this debate could end in some kind of a result if that kind of an approach is taken. Otherwise, we are sorry about the way we have bound ourselves with the implications on energy security, the implications on food security, the implications on foreign policy, the way we have bound ourselves to the adventurous global military game plan of the Americans by going in for this 'democracy and freedom' business all over the world. On the 6th of March, Iran was referred to the UN Security Council. Why? Was there any difficulty on the part of the Iranians cooperating with the IAEA? Aspersions are being cast on the Iranians based on information which Iranians themselves shared. The Americans are now urging upon the UN Security Council to go in for action. With Nicholas Burns I don't know what kind of discussion the prime minister had, but he has already issued a warning — that now is the testing time for our friends all over the world. Mere words would not do, they will have to materialise into action. What kind of action would it be?


Sir, I cannot share the view that the persons, who are the perpetrators of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay, have something common with India in the fight for freedom and democracy all over the world. Therefore, I request the prime minister to institute a special parliamentary committee, where everybody can express their views and we can use the entire expertise that is available in this country. Thank you.