Feature Article

Fall in line with US: American deadline to India

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 05 March 2008, 03:08 GMT]
Leading Indian opposition parties sense 'blackmailing' underneath U.S. pressure on nuclear agreements. India was recently told that failing to fall in line with the United States could jeopardise its nuclear prospects. Analysts find it significant to note that while setting a deadline to India to process the agreements, the United States has reminded India of their 'partnership' in dealing with India's neighbours in South Asia. Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Under Secretary of State named Sri Lanka and Nepal in this context, according to a PTI report on Saturday.

India has been told to rush through signing an India-specific nuclear safeguard agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) within a week or two, and to get clearance from the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) in March in order to implement the nuclear deal between India and the United States.

According to Indian media reports, the U.S. Ambassador to India, David Mulford, the outgoing Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Senators Joseph Biden and John Kerry, during their recent visits to India, have reiterated that it was time for the Indian government to decide upon the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, if the deal, negotiated through three years, has to be concluded before the end of Bush administrations' term in November 2008. Signalling that India would not be able to get a better deal with future U.S. administrations, the officials have told India to complete the prerequisites in time to enable the American Congress to process it in May or June, 2008.

Nicholas Burns
Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the U.S. Department of State’s third ranking official from March 2005 till March 2008
In an article appeared in the November / December, 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, titled 'America's Strategic Opportunity With India,' Nicholas Burns outlines the impacts of the agreement between India and the United States:

"The benefits of these historic agreements are very real for the United States. For the first time in three decades, India will submit its entire civil nuclear program to international inspection by permanently placing 14 of its 22 nuclear power plants and all of its future civil reactors under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Within a generation, nearly 90 percent of India's reactors will likely be covered by the agreement. Without the arrangement, India's nuclear power program would have remained a black box. With it, India will be brought into the international nuclear nonproliferation mainstream."

"[...] The agreement with India will not assist the country's nuclear weapons program in any way. And should India decide to conduct a nuclear test in the future, then the United States would have the right under U.S. law to seek the return of all nuclear fuel and technology shipped by U.S. firms."

"In short, the civil nuclear agreement serves the national security interests of the United States. It has already become the symbolic centerpiece of the new U.S.-India friendship and is wildly popular among millions of Indians who see it as a mark of U.S. respect for India," Mr. Burns writes adding that the deal will deepen the strategic partnership, create new opportunities for U.S. 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."

India, a nuclear power, besides Israel, North Korea and Pakistan, is not a signatory to the International Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in March 1970. The NPT, ratified by 189 countries, divides the world's states into Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Non-Nuclear-Weapon States (NNWS), based on the states that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon prior to January 1967. India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 and again in 1998 and seeks to be recognized as a de jure NWS. It has also been campaigning for permanent membership at U.N. Security Council with veto rights. The five declared NWS in the NPT, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, which are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, agree, under the NPT, not to transfer nuclear weapons or weapons technology to the non-nuclear weapon states while the non-nuclear weapon states that are signatory to the NPT commit not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons.

George W. Bush with Manmohan Singh
U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh signed the civilian nuclear cooperation deal on March 2, 2006. [Photo Courtesy: The White House]
However, there is a mechanism to bypass the NPT to effect Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation in civil energy needs. The exemption comes through the following process: first, India has to sign the said safeguard agreement with the IAEA. Then, it has to get the clearance from the NSG. Thereafter, the United States will invoke a provision called the Hyde Act of 2006 for civil nuclear cooperation with India, exempting the requirements of its own Atomic Energy Act of 1954. But for this, India has to sign the '123 agreement' with the United States. '123' is the number of an obligatory section in the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

By going through this process, India will not be expected to put all its nuclear installations for International supervision. It can separate them as military and civil. Only the civil installations will be exposed to supervision. But, to effect this exemption, what needed the most by India are the blessings of the United States. There arises a scope for the United States to demand compliance from India in matters related to foreign policy. The United States has already incorporated certain demands in the Hyde Act.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in February, 2008, told the Foreign Relations Committee of the American Senate that any exemption granted to India by the 45-member NSG have to be consistent with the U.S. Hyde Act of 2006.

The Hyde Act has certain conditions laid upon India related to Iran. On Indian - Iran relationship, the Hyde Act in Section 103 (b) (4) states the following as U.S. policy: "[to] secure India's full and active participation in United States efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction,[...]".

There are also reports in this context that the United States demanded India to abandon its plans for oil pipelines with Iran.

The U.S. diplomats try to entice India by saying what is offered by the Bush government is the best possible India can get and it may not be expected from any subsequent government after November.

“Non-proliferation bodies could force additional conditionality”, India was told by the U.S. officials hinting a 'now or never' message.

The critiques of the Act, especially the Indian Left, has warned that the consequences of a nuclear deal with such bound conditionality affects Indian foreign policy. They see ‘blackmailing’ in the whole process.

The politburo decision of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the CPI(M), as reported by PTI on 19 August, 2007, reads: “The [123] agreement should be seen in the light of the Hyde Act passed by the U.S. Congress and in the context of the wider implications of India being bound into a strategic alliance with the U.S. and its adverse consequences for an independent foreign policy, sovereignty and the economic interests of the people. The Polit Bureau is of the firm opinion that going ahead with this agreement will not serve India’s interests.”

A B Bardhan
CPI General Secretary AB Bardhan [Courtesy: IBN Live]
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (CPI) General Secretary, A B Bardhan was quoted by PTI on Saturday as saying that "senior American officials and diplomats like Nicholas Burns and Robert Gates had earlier visited India to exert pressure on the government for materialisation of the 123 Agreement. They are now threatening that if the nuclear deal was not signed, our deals with Russia and France would also be blocked."

France is eager to extend civil nuclear cooperation with India. Already France and India have taken steps in this regard. However, a tacit nuclear understanding between India and the United States is an essential prerequisite for India to get clearance from the NSG in order to become free for nuclear deals with others. Thus, France, even though competing with the United States to get civil nuclear contracts with India, is waiting for the outcome of the Indo-U.S. deal.

On 29 February, The Times of India, reported: "With the Left still stubborn about its stand against the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear deal, France has started lobbying hard with the defiant Left, trying to use the deadlock to its advantage."

CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu [Photo: AFP]
Atomic power plant at Koodangku'lam, Thirunelveali district in Tamil Nadu state, under construction [Courtesy: Nuclear Power Cooperation of India Ltd.]
The paper further said that Jerome Bonnafont, the French ambassador to India, last Thursday paid a visit to CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu with the proposal for a strategic partnership between India and France.

"Though Bonnafont called it a 'courtesy call', his visit on Thursday left political circles abuzz with speculation that the French diplomat had come to Kolkata to sound Basu out on the deal that will have no strings attached to it like the US Hyde Act that the Left have been swearing at," the paper reported.

In the meantime, India’s NSG exemption is also awaited by Russia to start building four new atomic reactors at Koodangku'lam in Tamil Nadu, which had already been agreed upon between Putin and Manmohan Singh in January 2007.

The main opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is opposed to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal in its present format. But, Brajesh Mishra, who was National Security Advisor when BJP was in power and who earlier (January, 2006) wanted to trash the deal, in a recent interview to Rediff has said that the deal should go through, despite the opposition from the Left and the BJP, justifying his view from a perspective of energy cooperation with the members of NSG. It is hard to imagine whether BJP would have acted any differently, had it been in power.

What is significant to others in South Asia, but not found in the discussions of the Indian politicians, is the subtle bargain or 'blackmailing', put in veiled terms by the American diplomats about the extension of U.S. 'partnership' in India's dealings with her neighbours.

Nicholas Burns, in his policy article on Foreign Affairs, went on to say: "Leadership in South Asia is, of course, just one part of India's increasingly important global role. As India is both a rising power and a democracy, we in Washington view its growing influence in the world as broadly congruent with U.S. interests."

He reminded India's investment and future prospects in Afghanistan, equilibrium with Pakistan, shared concerns about the instability in Bangladesh and restoration of democracy in Nepal.

On Sri Lanka, he said: "In Sri Lanka, the United States and India have come together to call for a political settlement with the Tamil minority through a power-sharing agreement so as to end the island's bloody conflict. Our countries have stood together in denouncing the terrorism and human rights violations that have plagued Sri Lanka during the past year."

Last week, at the Washington Press Centre, while briefing on Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and answering questions to media persons, Burns said: "We [India and the United States] have become partners in South Asia. We work very closely with India, for instance, in trying to encourage a peaceful transition in Nepal. We work very closely with India on the question of Sri Lanka."

Reading the American diplomatic statements in between the lines and understanding them against the backdrop of the sequence of events in Sri Lanka, one cannot help the impression that the recent American policy and exertions towards Sri Lankan affairs were tacit endorsements of India's wishes. In return, the American hope is to hook India itself.

Given the nature of the power circles of the United States and India, it is doubtful whether mere change of government in Washington or New Delhi could alter the perspectives in any big way in the near future. But strategies and tactics could differ which matters a lot.

The small formations in South Asia, who are not at all concerned about the nuclear-centric power struggles, but are completely pre-occupied with hard pressed needs for social and political transformation domestically, are going to be in a precarious position. They have to now face the parallel task of identifying spheres of overlapping interests with two masters to effect any change needed by them.


External Links:
The Hindu: Left ‘unable to accept’ 123 agreement
U.S. Dep. of State: Nicholas Burns' interview with the Hindustan Times
Deccan Herald: Take courageous decision on N-deal: Burns
The Hindu: India and Iran: crunch time ahead
The Hindu: Don’t go ahead with nuclear deal: CPI(M)
U.S. Dep. of State: Text of 123 Agreement
Times of India: N-power: French envoy meets Basu
Newindpress: Exemption for India at NSG will be 'consistent' with Hyde Act
Mainstream Weekly: Hyde Act: Relevant Excerpts
Sify: Lost N-deal opportunity would be a shame: US
Foreign Affairs: America's Strategic Opportunity With India: Nicholas Burns

 

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