Special Correspondent

Doubts should be clarified and the implications of the Hyde Act evaluated first

NEW DELHI: With the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal kicking up a political storm and creating a rift between the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and its crucial allies, the Left parties, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Prakash Karat says the best course would be for the government not to proceed further with the operationalising of the agreement.

“Till all the doubts are clarified and the implications of the Hyde Act evaluated, the government should not take the next steps with regard to negotiating the IAEA safeguards, which are to be in perpetuity, and proceed to get the guidelines from the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Mr. Karat says.

In an article in the latest issue of People’s Democracy, he says a wise and expedient step for the government would be to acknowledge that “there is widespread opposition to the agreement.”

He says the question is not whether it should be put to vote in Parliament or not. It is clear that a majority in Parliament is opposed to it.

He writes: “It may be difficult for ordinary people to grasp the implications of the nuclear agreement with all its technical aspects and intricacies. The supply of nuclear fuel, the fuel cycle, the enrichment and reprocessing technologies and the safeguards agreement are all not within the knowledge of lay people. Without going into the complex issues concerning nuclear cooperation, one way to understand and assess the agreement is to ask: does this agreement advance India’s interests, does it protect our capacity for an independent foreign policy and sovereignty? Is this an agreement only on nuclear cooperation or is it part of a wider agreement?”

The nuclear cooperation deal is only one part of the wide-ranging alliance that the UPA government has forged with the U.S. Prior to the joint statement of July 2005, it signed a 10-year Defence Framework Agreement. “It is evident that without the defence agreement, the Americans would not have agreed for the nuclear cooperation. This is part of a quid pro quo,” he writes.

‘First conflict’

He says the first serious conflict with the Left arose when the UPA government did a volte face on the Iran nuclear issue. The government voted along with the U.S. and the Western countries in September 2005 and was not even prepared to go along with the position adopted by the bloc of Non-Aligned Movement countries.

Mr. Karat says the nuclear cooperation agreement ignores the very limited contribution that nuclear power makes to our overall energy generation which is just three per cent and cannot exceed seven per cent over the next 25 years. To make India’s foreign policy and strategic autonomy hostage to the potential of nuclear energy does not make sense except for the American imperative to bind India to its strategic designs in Asia, he writes.

Referring to the Hyde Act, he says it expects India to have a foreign policy “congruent” to the United States. Every year, the U.S. President will be reporting to the U.S. Congress on how India is complying with the provisions set out in the Act.