People's Democracy

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


No. 43

October 28, 2007





Proceed Only On The Basis Of Parliament Opinion


US imperialism has once again displayed its over-anxiety in having the nuclear deal clinched at the earliest. US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns speaking at a breakfast meeting at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York, this week, said, “India has to move fast”. For the beleaguered Bush administration, which is having the worst rankings in opinion polls for any US president in recent memory, this deal with India may be the only positive achievement that the Republicans can show to the American people in the run-up to the US presidential elections in 2008. However, the story would be incomplete if one were to reduce the importance of clinching this deal to the compulsions of US domestic politics alone. There are other far-reaching strategic and economic considerations as well.


Soon after the 123 agreement was finalised and frozen, on July 27 2007, Nicholas Burns at an official media briefing had listed out the various benefits accruing to the USA from this deal. He reiterated these and additional benefits for the USA in an article – “America’s Strategic Opportunity with India: The New US India Partnership” in the November-December issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Apart from seeing a strategic partnership with India, USA sees the current ties as “a growing US-India campaign to promote stable, well governed democracies around the world”. This must indeed be the irony of ironies considering the fact that all across the world whether it was in Chile, Iran under the Shah or in the Philippines in South East Asia, military dictatorships have been supported and sustained by the US imperialism as part of its strategic concerns. And what “promotion of stable well-governed democracies” entails is starkly visible in Iraq today. Clearly, US imperialism is seeking to absorb India as its subordinate ally in its global hegemonic designs.


In addition to this strategic objective, Burns notes that with this deal nearly 90 per cent of India’s nuclear reactors will be covered under international safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). India has consistently refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) precisely on the ground that it is discriminatory and loaded in favour of the nuclear weapon countries. With this deal despite not being signatory to the NPT, according to Burns, “India will be brought into the international nuclear non-proliferation mainstream”. The most important benefit will be for the American firms who, “for the first time in three decades (will be) able to invest in India’s nuclear industry”. This must be seen in conjunction with the fact that the last order for a nuclear power reactor in the USA was placed nearly three decades ago. This deal therefore is to revive the profits of an industry that is being starved of orders in the USA itself because of US policy to discourage nuclear power generation considering the enormous damages that may occur in the likelihood of an accident.


In the words of Nicholas Burns, “this agreement will deepen the strategic partnership, create new opportunities for US businesses in India, enhance global energy security, and reduce India’s carbon emissions. It will also send a powerful message to nuclear outlaws such as Iran: if you play by the rules, as India has, you will be rewarded; if you do not, you will face sanctions and isolation.” Thus this deal is US imperialism’s “reward” to India for its “good behaviour” and the not so veiled threat to change the direction of India’s independent foreign policy.


In addition, US imperialism sees enormous potential in a far greater defence cooperation with India. This according to Burns includes, “training; exercises; we hope, defence sales of American military technology to the Indian armed forces”.


Thus, the eagerness and over anxiety of US imperialism can be understood by such reasoning. The Bush administration has apparently set an year end deadline for the Manmohan Singh government to wrap up negotiations with the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


The setting of such deadlines is in itself an insult to Indian democracy. The democratic processes of any country cannot be influenced by external pressures and by the needs of another country. The UPA-Left Committee to examine the implications of this deal has at its last meeting discussed the possibility of a discussion on the deal in the forthcoming winter session of the parliament. Left hopes as per the earlier understanding of the committee the government will proceed by respecting the majority opinion expressed in the parliament.


Now, this should not sound strange to the USA. Remember, the manner in which former president Bill Clinton travelled from country to country coercing independent nations into signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Vajpayee government had then reportedly agreed to do so but due to the public pressure and the parliament’s virtual disapproval kept the issue on hold. Having coerced a large number of countries the Clinton administration finally could not have the CTBT approved from the US Congress itself. Given this, US imperialism must understand that if such democratic processes are valid in their country they are equally valid in every other democracy. What is sauce for the goose is after all, sauce for the gander as well.


The above reasonings offered by US imperialism is, in itself, the most powerful reason for India not to rush through with this deal without considering the grave implications that it has on India’s domestic nuclear programmes, independent foreign policy and security concerns. It is precisely for this reason that the UPA-Left Committee was formed in the first place. This committee had reiterated in its last meeting that its findings will be kept in mind before the UPA government proceeds further.


The prime minister’s recent remarks made on October 23 must be seen in this context. He said “given the very nature of competitive politics and the very fractured mandate given to governments, it has at times become difficult for us to do what is manifestly obvious”. To be fair, the prime minister said this in the context of an “unfinished agenda” of economic reforms. But nearly all commentators have linked this to the impasse on the nuclear deal. In this context certain observations become necessary.


In these columns, through the past decade and more, we have been arguing that what is considered as a “fractured mandate” must not be seen as a regression of India’s democratic evolution but in many ways it reflects the maturation of Indian democracy. The immense social plurality in India will, obviously, reflect itself in its polity. It is only natural that under these conditions various parties may garner the confidence of sections of this vast social diversity and thus no single party may acquire the requisite majority to form its own government. At least for some time in the future, coalition governments are the order of things to come in Indian politics.


Secondly, such “fractured mandates” carry with them an important element of checks and balances required for the sound functioning of any democracy. For this reason, coalition governments often have a common minimum programme of policies to be implemented while in office. The current UPA government’s CMP is a result of this process. All partners of the UPA coalition and the outside supporting Left parties have broadly endorsed the CMP. If any impediments are being brought before the government in the implementation of the CMP then of course the PM’s remarks are justified. However, if objections are raised on certain policy directions which are not contained in the CMP or are departures from the CMP then such objections serve the important purpose of checking the government’s drift from the CMP.


The Left’s objections to the Indo-US nuclear deal are of this nature. India’s desire for such a deal was not mentioned in the Congress election manifesto. Neither was it mentioned in any manifesto of its allies nor does the CMP have any reference to it. On the contrary the CMP talks of an independent foreign policy to be pursued by the UPA government which, given the nature and content of this deal, the Left parties are convinced will be compromised. Under these circumstances, the Left’s objection to the deal, in no way, constitutes any departure from the agreed common minimum programme, which is the basis for its support to this UPA government.


In this context the latest BJP’s call for the resignation of the prime minister since he is “helpless” is not merely ludicrous but is absurd. BJP as a party, displayed rank opportunism while it cobbled together the NDA to form the Vajpayee government. The BJP had fought the elections on the plank of its core Hindutva agenda. Post elections, in order to garner the requisite majority to form the government, the BJP put on the backburner the three basic issues that define its political existence and which forms the basis of its electoral support. The question of building a temple at Ayodhya, the demand for scrapping Article 370 of our Constitution and the demand for a Uniform Civil Code were all shelved in order to cobble a parliamentary majority. A party that is willing to give up its own ideological foundations in the pursuit of power is the least qualified to even ask for the PM’s resignation on the grounds that he has not implemented something which never existed in their manifesto or in the Common Minimum Programme of the government.


Having perfected the art of speaking with a forked tongue the BJP continues to remain ambiguous over its stand on the nuclear deal. On the one hand it argues for a strategic Indo-US strategic alliance, on the other it plays to the gallery by periodically issuing statements opposing the deal. Its disruption of parliamentary proceedings in the Monsoon session were directed primarily at preventing an exposure of its duplicity on the issue. As stated in these columns earlier, the BJP’s main grouse is that this deal, if it ever happens, is happening under a Congress-led dispensation while it ought to have happened under the BJP as they had laid down the basis for deepening Indo-US strategic alliance.


Given this, it is only hoped that the BJP will allow a discussion on this deal in the forthcoming winter session of parliament. However, if it continues to disrupt the proceedings to protect itself from an indecent exposure then it shall be doing the greatest disservice to India by not allowing the parliament to have its say in the matter. Let a majority in the parliament decide whether the deal is acceptable to India or not. This is the only way that the present impasse can end.