[Marxism] Indo-US Nuclear Deal: EPW Editorial

Sukla Sen suklasenp at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Aug 17 08:49:57 MDT 2007


EPW Editorial, August 11 2007

Notwithstanding the protests by the Bharatiya
Janata Party, the left parties and assorted groups
of nuclear scientists and self-appointed strategic
affairs specialists, the Indo-US nuclear agreement is
now a done deal. Parliament will, of course, see a
heated discussion on prime minister Manmohan Singh's
statement on how the 123 Agreement that the two
countries have negotiated conforms to the assurances
he gave the two houses in August 2006. We cannot
expect the people's representatives to even this time
ask the two all-important questions which have never
figured in the high voltage political and media debate
over the past two years: Should India be pursuing
nuclear power and aiming to establish 20,000 megawatts
(MW) of installed capacity by 2020? And should
we be concerned about the right to assemble nuclear
weapons for a so-called "minimum deterrent"?
This journal has consistently argued that India should
not be chasing the chimera of a Kamadhenu of nuclear
energy and that the Indo-US deal is therefore not one
that we should be engaged in. Similarly, to examine
the
bilateral agreement through the magnifying lens of
whether or not it will hinder our "strategic weapons
programme" is to buy into the dangerous illusion of
security with a stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Yet,
an enthusiasm for nuclear power and the need at all
costs to build a nuclear arsenal have both informed
the domestic debate in the country. The left is right
in arguing that the deal is part of a larger web of
relationships – military, economic and political –
which
the US is drawing India into and that it should
therefore
be rejected for the dependency this engagement with
the imperial power will create. However, this position
of the left will not convince anybody, for until now
it
has formulated its arguments largely on the lines put
out by the domestic nuclear lobby which has carried
out a high-pitched campaign that the pact with the US
will, in particular, place constraints on India's
nuclear
weapons programme. So to now turn the emphasis on
the larger relationship between the US and India will
not cut ice with anybody.

In cementing the 123 Agreement with Washington,
India has formally descended from the high moral
ground
it had taken for decades on the nuclear
non-proliferation
treaty (NPT). Once upon a time, New Delhi used to
argue
that the NPT had created, on the one hand, a small and
exclusive club of "nuclear haves", which were allowed
to legally possess nuclear weapons, and, on the other,
a vast number of "nuclear have-nots", which were
prevented from legal possession of such weapons.
India had maintained that the NPT had utterly failed
to address the objective of universal and
comprehensive
non-proliferation, the country all the while claiming
to
use nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes, and
insisting on a comprehensive, time-bound action plan
for a nuclear-free world. But sooner or later New
Delhi
had to drop all such ethical claims. This India first
did with Pokhran-I in 1974 and followed it up with
Pokhran-II. Its hypocrisy has been now fully exposed
with its enthusiasm for the agreement with the US.
If India meets the requirements of the International
Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers'
Group, and the 123 Agreement is passed by the US
Congress, commercial deals worth $ 150 billion may
well be up for grabs as India aims to expand its
nuclear
power generation capacity from 4,000 MW to 20,000
by 2020. In all this, what seems to have been
disregarded is
the economic and political power of the
military-industrial
complex in the US, which has been pushing
Washington to use the real and urgent issue of global
warming to give a big push to nuclear power.

Nuclear power is simply too risky and dangerous for
India to see it as a major source of energy, and the
expectations whether in terms of its contribution to
electricity generation or to reducing greenhouse
gas emissions are extremely unrealistic. First, after
the enormous amount of expenditure and energy the
nation has expended in the area over the past half
a century, the nuclear establishment has little right
to protect
its turf, which now contributes a mere 3 per cent of
India's
electricity generating capacity. But the Indo-US deal
will
not make much of a difference for, even if the
ambitious
target for 2020 is achieved, nuclear will still
account for
no more than 8 to 10 per cent of the capacity India
hopes to
have on the target date. Second, all independent
estimates
point out that nuclear power is more expensive than
other
sources of energy – thermal, hydro and renewable.
Third,
the new argument that nuclear will help combat global
warming
is illusory, for it has been shown that for that to
happen
a new nuclear plant has to come up every week! The
fourth
and most important argument against nuclear power is
the
social, health and environmental threat it poses to
human and
all forms of life. The financial and environmental
costs of
nuclear power are too onerous and the government needs
to invest instead in renewable energy.

The nature of the two-year debate on the Indo-US deal
in
the country, in the political arena and, sadly, even
in the media,
has shown that both state and society have,
shamefully, managed
to make India completely abandon a principled position
on
nuclear weapons. India is now not just an enthusiastic
advocate
of nuclear energy, it strongly believes in its right
to possess and
accumulate nuclear weapons. This is surely a matter of
national
shame as the country sets out in the coming week to
celebrate
60 years of independence.


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