Priscilla Jebaraj and Suresh Nambath

Focus on indigenous measures and gas pipeline, he says

CHENNAI: India’s energy security policy needs to go beyond the imported nuclear power that will be facilitated by the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said on Sunday. Instead, the country’s policy must focus on indigenous measures and energy accessed by following an independent foreign policy.

“It is wrong to say that we’re against nuclear energy. But what we are arguing is, we do not buy the argument of the government that nuclear energy is central to our energy security. According to us, it’s all bunkum,” Mr. Karat said, in an interview to The Hindu in Chennai.

High cost

He argued against the idea that with rising fuel prices, India needs to import nuclear reactors. “We have calculated the cost of power generated through imported nuclear reactors. It’s going to be four times that of coal-based power plants. We cannot run our buses and public transport, our cars on nuclear energy,” Mr. Karat said, adding that the price of uranium in the world market was also on the rise.

The government could have got hold of cheaper energy in a quicker fashion if it had concluded the India-Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline agreement last year. “But this gas pipeline cannot proceed precisely because of this Indo-U.S. nuclear cooperation deal. The government cannot afford to displease the Americans. [U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice has come to India and said, we don’t want you to have this gas pipeline, you cannot deal with Iran. Now this is exactly our point. Is it in India’s interest of energy security to stall a gas pipeline because the Americans don’t want you to deal with Iran?”

Ties with West Asia

Mr. Karat argued that India’s energy security required a different strategy. “We need to have good relations with countries in West Asia, including Iran. We need the gas from the Iran pipeline. We need to use our indigenous coal reserves and utilise more thermal power. We need to explore, and we have got enough uranium in our own country, which they are not utilising, they are not mining it,” he said.

Hyde Act

Mr. Karat also took issue with Indian Cabinet Ministers who downplay the Hyde Act, saying that it is the 123 agreement, rather than the Hyde Act that is binding on India. “It is meaningless to say it is not binding on India. It is meaningful to say it is binding on the U.S. administration,” he said.

He pointed out that the Act, passed by the U.S. Congress, binds successive American administrations to certain goals. “Even now, [at] the Nuclear Suppliers Group — if we ever go to that — the Americans are committed to get a waiver for India, the terms of which are set in the Hyde Act very clearly. So it is wrong to see the Hyde Act divorced from the overall content of the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation [deal].”

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