Will The Communists Nuke the Nuclear Deal?

August 20, 2007
Rajen Nair

The Manmohan Singh-led Indian Government is caught in an imbroglio over the India-US nuclear deal threatening its own survival. One of its ruling allies, the Left Front, mainly consisting of Communist parties had taken strong objection to the signing of the nuclear deal with the US. The Left Front hardliner leader Prakash Karat had given an ultimatum to the Manmohan Singh government to either re-negotiate the nuclear deal or to scrap it. He declared that the honeymoon period between them is over and if the Manmohan Singh government fails to fulfill their demand the consequences will be dangerous. This implies that they have the option to withdraw their support and it were to take place the nation will see a mid-term election.

The Left Front's objection is that the nuclear deal is not in the interest of the nation. Their argument is that by signing the deal, the Indian government is forfeiting its right to conduct future nuclear explosions. Also, they believe that India's national security is jeopardized in the event of their rival countries like Pakistan and China conducting nuclear tests.

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the main architect of this nuclear deal, stoutly denied this allegation and affirmed that the deal is in the best interests of the nation. The bone of contention is the much touted 123 agreement, which both India and the US have to conclude for any bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. The name '123 agreement' is derived from one of the sections of the US Atomic Energy Act.

The advantages of 123 agreements are that India will have nuclear cooperation and trade with the US and others without compromising its weapon program. There is no need for India to sign the Non-proliferation treaty (NPT). India is assured much needed fuel supplies for its civilian use and so too its nuclear facilities come under permanent safeguard. Beside India can reprocess and recycle spent fuel. Also, India will get access to high-tech and dual-use technology in IT, defense, space and pharmaceuticals. Moreover India will get acceptance and be recognized as a nuclear power globally.

I think here, the American interest in signing the nuclear deal with India is that it will use India as a strategic partner to counter the rising super power clout of China. Further, with the end of the Cold War, it is natural for India to shift its strategic alliance from Russia to the USA. There is nothing for India to lose in this new strategic game that the US wants to employ.

But for our shortsighted Left allies, here is where the hitch lies. The Left Front has always been allergic to any alliance with the capitalist USA. Bogged down by their outdated ideology, the communists are always seen as sworn enemies of the capitalists. That perhaps explains their bitter opposition to the nuclear deal with the US. They don't realize that with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the communist ideology is rendered defunct and almost dead. China, despite following a communist ideology, does not shy away from doing business with other capitalist countries, especially the USA.

The Left Front of the CPM (Communist Party of Marxist), CPI (Communist of India) and Forward Bloc should take a leaf from their counterparts in China. I can understand the Chinese apprehension and objection to the India- US nuclear deal. India and China both are considered as the future superpowers, so any nuclear deal India has with the US is seen by them as USA's attempt to downsize them.

The Indian Communist Party claims that their objection to the nuclear deal is on the ground that it goes against national security interests. Any Indian with an elementary knowledge of Indian politics will not buy that argument. There is nothing in the agreement that puts a spanner in the works of India carrying out its nuclear program for safeguarding its national security. I think their opposition to the deal has more to do with ideological differences and for political reasons.

The Indian Prime minster out of frustration in one of his press statements challenged his Left Front allies to withdraw support to his government. Some believe the Prime Minister's statement has aggravated the crisis as the Left parties now have taken an unrelenting stand to oppose the nuclear deal. They are holding out the threat that if the Indian government goes ahead with the deal, not taking into account their objections, then it might consider withdrawal of their support.

In the Indian parliament, the Manmohan Singh-led coalition government has a majority of 272 seats and minus the left parties it will fall short of 53 seats. As a consequence, the government will be reduced to a minority government, though it will continue to hold on to power. But Manmohan Singh will be considered a lame duck government, effectively curbing its role as a main ruling power.

Now the Manmohan Singh government finds itself in a spot that its two long years of arduous negotiations on the nuclear deal will fall flat as the US has made it categorically clear that the deal has gone too far leaving no room for any further negotiations.

Meanwhile, Manmohan Singh's government and the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi are making all out efforts to work out a face-saving solution that is acceptable to their Leftist allies. I think the Left Front objection is only political posturing as they too don't want a mid-term election. By and large, the Indian press, television, political pundits, scientist and the people support the Manmohan Singh Government in signing this historical India-US nuclear deal. Now it remains to be seen in coming days whether this government will survive to see the nuclear deal through.

A freelance photographer and writer from Mumbai.
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August 20, 2007
08:35 AM


caveat: this comment is tangential and long:)

I think here, the American interest in signing the nuclear deal with India is that it will use India as a strategic partner to counter the rising super power clout of China. Further, with the end of the Cold War, it is natural for India to shift its strategic alliance from Russia to the USA.

cold war 1 ended with the demise of the old ussr (reagon out-spent them)

cold water 2 has begun (the russians had time to regroup. witness the resumption of long distance flights recently?)

the us has realigned its foreign policy objectives to enlist emerging Indian clout in its bid to contain russia and china

though economists are divided on this but an increasing number of them are voicing their criticism of the US trillion dollar debt and the theoretical inability of the white elephant to repay it...even speculating on the death of the elephant regarded as a uni-power in world affairs today

pol-sci tanks and writers are debating a restructured tri or quadra power world realignment that would include the usa plus russia and china or russia (military), china (economic and military) and india (economic and military) in the not too distant future


it is in the interest of the whole world to work at the ending of the uni-power world. a tri or quadra power world will restore the old check and balances in world affairs and reduce tensions to manageable status.

india specific: she is uniquely placed to increase her clout. russia has long standing friendship. the usa is a new found friend. if china can be co-opted into this friend-club india would be ensuring herself a unique global power status

August 20, 2007
11:33 AM

Temporal- Thanks for your comment. I agree with your conclusion and wish it is pratical enough to happen in future.

August 20, 2007
12:31 PM

Are commies thinking in the interest of their "fatherland"? Commies historically have been more faithful to their commie counterparts than India. They are such a grave threat to India!

August 20, 2007
03:01 PM

Drop a low yield nuke in Kolkata, right on top of the CPI(M) party building. That may solve many of India's problems :)

August 20, 2007
03:02 PM

sheesh atlantean!

you have a cruel streak



no nukes! woo them with rose petals

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