[Marxism] Is the CPI(M) in India going to fall on its own sword?

Ruthless Critic of All that Exists ok.president+marxml at gmail.com
Mon Jul 21 20:21:36 MDT 2008


            INSAF Bulletin July 2008


            Vinod Mubayi

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPM, has threatened to
withdraw support for the Congress-led government of Manmohan
Singh, which would precipitate parliamentary elections a year earlier
than due. The issue is the Indo-US nuclear deal, which the Indian
government supports but CPM thinks will push India into strategic
alliance with the US. The likely beneficiary of this confrontation will be
the champion of Hindutva, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Left parties in India, led by CPM, are parliamentary allies of the
UPA government, led by Congress, and their support is essential to the
survival of the government at least until the elections due next year.
However, the left's opposition to the proposed Indo-US nuclear deal is
threatening to bring down the UPA regime well before its term ends,
which will precipitate a fresh election.  Based on current political and
economic trends, the results of the election may not favor the UPA or
the left.  Inflation in India, despite surging economic growth over the last
few years, has hit a new high in line with worldwide trends in the prices
of oil and food products.  The government has been forced to raise the
administered prices of petroleum products, hardly a step that will
increase its popularity with the public.  The state governments led by
CPM, in particular West Bengal, have also lost some of their popular
support to the opposition in the wake of the Singur and Nandigram
episodes and it is highly unlikely that the CPM could garner as many
seats in the Lok Sabha as they did in the last general election in 2004.

>From the standpoint of electoral arithmetic it is thus surprising that CPM
as well as other elements of the left like CPI and RSP are choosing this
juncture to destabilize a regime they have been propping up for the last
four years, knowing full well that the beneficiary of their actions could be
the Hindutva-led NDA, fresh from its recent first-time ever victory in a
southern Indian state, viz. Karnataka.

At the time of publication of this issue of the Bulletin, various types of
maneuvering are taking place among the parties both inside the UPA
and those outside, like the Samajwadi party, to try to ensure the
government's survival even if the left parties formally withdraw their
support.  Whether the UPA survives for another year or falls, leading to
fresh elections in the near future, it is not likely that the left parties are
going to benefit politically from the stand they have taken on this issue.
CPM brought out a press release on June 20 asserting that the nuclear
deal has nothing to do with India's energy situation; it is instead a cover
for an Indo-US strategic alliance.  The opposition and apprehension
expressed by the left parties on the broader issue of India-US relations
is understandable. Any development that would subject India to U.S.
hegemony no doubt needs to be opposed.  But it is stretching both logic
and the facts to claim that an agreement, which allows India to
participate in the international nuclear market, buy reactors and
technology from, say, France and Russia or raw uranium fuel from
Australia and Africa, reflects an "Indo-US strategic alliance."

CPM's press release claims at one place that "India's growing shortage
of energy has little to do with a lack of nuclear energy."  This appears to
be in line with the position of the anti-nuclear environmental advocates
who regard nuclear generated power in much the same way as a
religious person looks at Sin. Later in the press release they go on to
say: "Nuclear energy has an important place in India's energy
option…this should be based on our indigenous technology and our
indigenous resources." The latter claim seems to have been inserted at
the behest of some of the pro public sector power advocates since all
of the nuclear facilities in India are government owned and operated.
India's current "indigenous" technology of pressurized heavy water
reactors, based on the Canadian CANDU design, uses natural
uranium, in contrast to the majority of power reactors worldwide that
use slightly enriched uranium.

India has very modest reserves of natural uranium, which are currently
depleting.  CPM berates the government for "closing" an existing mine
and not opening new mines; it does not indicate that attempts to open
new mines has met with considerable opposition orchestrated by the
same anti-nuclear advocates whose positions CPM echoes in its press
release.  The statement also ignores the fact of the performance of
"indigenous" nuclear technology; in almost 40 years India has erected
barely 4000 MW of capacity, while South Korea, whose first nuclear
power plant came up a full 15 years after India's first plant began
operation, now has about 20,000 MW of installed capacity.

In an increasingly globalized high-technology market, the benefits and
costs of indigenization have to be carefully evaluated.  There is hardly
any virtue in cutting off your nose to spite your face or foregoing foreign
technology based on the NIH (not invented here) syndrome.  If India
cannot participate as a full player in the international nuclear technology
and resource market by joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it is very
unlikely that there will be any long-term nuclear option for India to
salvage. No doubt, the anti-nuclear activists would be pleased if this
happened but would CPM also? It is difficult to both run with the hare
and hunt with the hounds as CPM is trying to do by denying that nuclear
has any relevance in the short term but is important in the long term. It
is interesting that the Russian Ambassador to India stressed this fact a
few days ago and recommended that India sign the deal as a prelude to
its acceptance by the IAEA and the NSG.  Russia, having agreed to
grandfather the two Koodankulam VVER units due to go into operation
next year, is naturally anxious to sell more reactors and fuel to India.

In the CPM's view, only domestic coal has relevance to India's electric
sector and the IPI gas pipeline to the broader energy sector.  No one
will quarrel with the latter.  If the Indian government delayed the Iran
gas pipeline due to US pressure, it was a foolish thing to do but recent
reports suggests that India is attempting to get back into the gas
project.  As far as coal-fired power is concerned it currently accounts
for almost three-fourths of India's total (utility) capacity with the
remainder being mostly hydropower plus a small fraction of natural gas,
nuclear and wind generation.

It is true, as the CPM press release indicates that only a "negligible
amount" of oil is used in (central) power plants.  But it should be
obvious to anyone that grid power shortages have led to a huge
increase in diesel generator sets, which are mushrooming in the fast-
growing industrial, residential, and commercial sectors all over the
country and must constitute a significant fraction of the total demand for
diesel.  It is intriguing that the CPM press release on energy policy fails
to mention even hydropower, not to speak of wind, solar, or other
renewable energy sources as potential future options.  Putting all our
eggs in the coal basket may be a short-term solution but it is also a very
shortsighted one.  Perhaps those who wrote the press release are
unaware of climate change or global warming and the leading role of
coal fired plants in exacerbating the greenhouse gas effect.  If so, it
would be good for them as well as the progressive movement in India if
they could undertake a crash course in the subject.

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