Friday, September 5, 2008

123 Agreement: Is India getting what it wants?

A US Congressman makes public an internal note from his government relating to the Indo-American nuclear deal, and the tumult and the shouting starts in India.


What is the significance of this note? Does it infringe on India’s sovereignty? Was it part of what could be called Bushing (not to be mixed up with ‘phishing’ or ‘bushing’), which sometimes causes confusion. President Bush is said to have his own lexicon. Perhaps the President, though he didn’t sign the note, could have been misleading his own people.


What does the note say? The main point of objection in India appears to be the mention that the US would stop nuclear supplies if India conducts an atomic test. Now, how could such an eventuality come about?


The relevant points are:

1. India has a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing in force. To carry out a test in future, the ban has to be revoked. Is that likely?

2. The countries, India included, that are advanced in nuclear technology do not, it would appear, need to carry out more physical tests. The exercise is now done on computers.

3. If India does conduct a test on some future date, the nuclear supplies from the US do not stop automatically. The incumbent US President at that time would have to decide. The commercial benefits to the US would be a major factor in arriving at a conclusion.

4. The US is not the only supplier of India’s nuclear requirements.

5. We are looking at a short 4/5 decade time-span till our thorium-based technology is streamlined.

(See my post dated 8/18/07, Indo-US nuclear agreement)


International agreements are confined to what is inked by the countries involved and do not include internal notes of one party. The Government of India certainly could not have presented the confidential domestic communication of another country for debate in the Parliament.


If the Americans had formally sent us a copy of the note concerned, we would have had to take cognizance of it. As of now it remains an opinion, rightly or wrongly worded, of an outgoing administration. The next administration in the White House may or may not endorse it.


Our sensitivity to what others say amounts to a lack of self confidence. The question should be whether we know what we want and are we getting it? Why waste time and energy on what is whispered behind our backs or the internal dialogue of another country?


On 6/23/08 I wrote (Nuclear Deal: The Left, and the Right) that China would be the gainer if the Indo-American Nuclear Deal did not materialize. Now it seems clear that China has reservations about it. Surely, internal notes (if China has that system) would have passed within that country’s government. There is no reason why we should bother about that.


What is intriguing is the timing and the reason for Congressman Howard Berman to make the note public. He reportedly said that he wanted the people of America to know. That revelation came to him after holding on to the communication for nearly nine months. If the NSG had approved the Indo-American Nuclear Deal at its earlier meeting, Berman would have missed the bus, whatever his reason was for wanting to board it.


Let us look at the matter objectively. If the final product is acceptable, we take it. Otherwise we dump it.

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