People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March 09, 2008


Nuclear Deal: Turning Point Has Arrived

Political Commentator

ONCE again the pro-US media aided by sources in the prime minister?s office and the ministry of external affairs are busy fabricating another ?successful? step forward in the Indo-US nuclear deal. If one is to believe these reports, after five rounds of negotiations, the Indian side has got a safeguards agreement which will overcome all the problems posed by the Hyde Act and its 123 progeny.

This is, to use an American term, pure baloney! Neither the Hyde Act nor the 123 agreement grants lifetime fuel supply assurance to safeguarded reactors. At the same time the safeguards are put in perpetuity. It is not within the scope or jurisdiction of the IAEA to provide any assurance for uninterrupted fuel supply or help India build a strategic reserve. Neither is it within the powers of the IAEA to spell out corrective measures that can be taken by India in the event of the termination of the fuel supply by a party contracted to do so.

Even a layman can understand that the IAEA is an international regulatory authority and not a supplier of fuel or nuclear equipment. It is the US which is the supplying party in the 123 agreement. And as has been repeatedly stated by the US authorities, they are bound by the provisions of the Hyde Act. They assert that the provisions of the 123 agreement does not contravene the Hyde Act.

When the UPA government insisted that they would like to go to the IAEA for talks on the safeguards agreement and cover issues such as uninterrupted fuel supply, build up of a strategic fuel reserve and corrective measures, the Left parties had made it clear that as far as they are concerned, the problem is not the safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The real problem is the Hyde Act and the bilateral 123 agreement with the United States. The Left parties have in the UPA-Left Committee on Nuclear Issue put up five notes which comprehensively deal with the harmful impact of the Hyde Act on the 123 agreement, foreign policy and security related matters.

The government committed that after the talks with the IAEA, the outcome will be reported to the UPA-Left Committee. The November 16, 2007 meeting of the committee issued a statement that this will be taken into account for arriving at the findings of the committee. Without these findings, the government will not proceed further with the agreement.

It has been clearly stated by the Left parties that the government cannot proceed with the finalisation of the IAEA safeguards agreement and take the next step to go to the Nuclear Suppliers Group given the basic objection to the Hyde Act and the 123 agreement.

It is unfortunate that the statement made by the minister of external affairs to parliament on March 3, 2008 and the prime minister's reply to the debate on the president's address continue to harp on the government?s efforts to go ahead with the nuclear deal. If the government thinks that after arriving at an agreed text with the IAEA on a safeguards agreement they can proceed to take the next steps for operationalising the agreement, they are mistaken.

It will amount to a gross violation of the majority opinion in parliament. The Left parties will take all the necessary steps to stop the government from taking such a harmful step. It is for the Congress leadership to decide whether it wants to be seen as kowtowing to the pressure of the Bush administration or acting democratically and heeding the voice of parliament and the people. And this decision has to be a quick and clear one. The future of this government depends on the decision they will take.