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The Rediff Special
'I feel sorry for Manmohan Singh'
August 20, 2007
rediff.com correspondents spoke to Indians around the country to find out what they think.
Syed Firoz Ashraf, activist and columnist, Mumbai
The India-US nuclear deal is not in the interests of the nation. If you see the history of the US vis a vis Pakistan they have always dominated the Pakistani establishment.
If we sign this deal then the US will be able to make its first move to influence Indian politics. Our government in the future can be a puppet government just like General Pervez Musharraf's [Images] government, which is a puppet government of America.
Already, India has become weak because there is not a single party with an overall national presence. We have regional parties dominating the Centre, and the US will use its muscle and money power to influence them. They are doing the same thing what the British did in 1857.
The British won over some maharajas and divided Indians. The US will do the same thing if we go ahead with this deal. They will then use our Indian Ocean waters and have their permanent base in the subcontinent. I feel this deal should be scrapped.
Aditi Prakash, brand manager, Bangalore
The Left used to have a lot of credibility and had a unique advantage when the young of the 1980s wanted to join them -- today the indifferent and technology-led youth thinks of them with apathy.
About the nuclear deal, there are three points to be made. I think Manmohan Singh [Images] is too much of a patriot to sell India's interests. Look at his resume, he has been all over and always worked for the nation -- for the last 40 years or something.
Secondly, I think the UPA must have taken the Left into confidence before the deal. And the CPM's objections now seem like an afterthought. Finally, I think the people who took orders from Moscow [Images] and backed China against India are the people now opposing the deal. They don't have any credibility.
Till now we always thought the Left told the truth, now I think they are liars. They'll agree to something in a closed room, but in front of the television cameras they say something else. We've always seen them as people of principle, but they now come across as publicity hounds -- who threaten to bring down the government at any cost.
The nuclear deal should go through, because I don't see it as the problem. Mid-term elections never help, being a tremendous waste of money and time.
I don't think the prime minister should resign. I don't think he, or the deal, is in the wrong. I acknowledge that his resignation, or mid-term elections, could be a reality over the next couple of days. But that is not the way out.
***S M Mansur, shipping executive, Mumbai
I don't know about the deal in detail but I feel India will benefit from this deal.
Let us face the fact that the US is today the sole superpower in the world. If we sign the deal then we are going to get access to nuclear technology that will be used for our energy needs.
Those who talk about India's sovereignty should not be bothered about this deal. I feel we should look at the US like a partner-friend just like the European countries do. In the Cold War era, Western countries were always protected by the US, and even today they are in this partnership. We too will always be protected from China because the US will be like our partner country.
We will benefit from this deal and it is the need of the hour for our economy. By signing this deal we will always have an advantage vis a vis Pakistan who is our arch-enemy. The USA will always prefer us compared to Pakistan.
Amritanshu Datta, chartered accountant, Kolkata
Honestly, I think the nuclear deal itself isn't the problem. The Left is creating the fuss as it wants to make its presence felt. If one analyses logically, this deal won't be too bad for India.
The Left is behaving this way as it feels anything American is bad and should be shunned. It is high time the Left parties put India first before their vested interests.
The deal will go a long way in strengthening Indo-American ties. The Left should get rid of its coloured vision and should realise that the deal will do us more good than them.
Will we see mid-term elections? No, the problem, will surely be sorted out. The Left can't and won't withdraw support because in the case of a mid-term election, Mayawati will back the United Progressive Alliance government.
However, the situation does make Dr Manmohan Singh's position weak and restablishes him once again as a 'spineless PM'.
Dr Singh has to resign. But who will replace him? I am not sure. I don't think Pranab Mukherjee will be a better option.
Mushir Khan, KPO executive, Mumbai
The US has tested 2,000 nuclear bombs and there was nobody to stop them. India so far has tested only 6 bombs and the US applied sanctions against us.
Is this not hypocrisy?
The US has tested all its latest military equipment in Afghanistan and Iraq and if India wants to test our nuclear technology for our defence then we have to take permission from the US. Does this not sound foolish?
Till date the US has always given all kinds of help to Pakistan militarily. I don't understand why then they are changing their direction towards India. They will never do anything until and unless it serves their purpose.
You see countries like Iran and North Korea. They are so tiny but still have withstood the US's mighty power. Why are we bending on our knees?
India is a founder member of the Non-Aligned Movement. I feel ashamed to see the Congress government is willing to compromise our sovereign Constitution to an imperialist power.
I will be happy to see this government fall if the Marxists withdraw support rather than see this nuclear deal go through.
R V Chandramouli, retired IAS officer, Chennai
The 123 deal may not be an ideal deal but it is not only good, but very good for the country. Now we will be a part of the international community in which civilian nuclear commerce will be possible for us. We can get technology, fuel etc from the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group). These two are the most positive things that can come out of the deal.
About the Hyde Act, it is only a small avatar of the Atomic Energy Act which the US passed long ago under which they had said if you do certain things, America would take action. So, it's not as if this is the first time they have enacted a law which compels other countries to do and not do certain things. The Iran provision is wrongly highlighted by the Left. See, even before the Hyde Act came into existence, we voted with the US.
I don't agree with the attitude of the Left. Though I have no direct evidence to say so, I am mostly convinced that the Left is playing a Chinese game in this. China and Pakistan are two countries that are greatly upset with the nuclear deal. The Left is always suspicious of America. They see some hidden agenda everywhere.
Manmohan Singh has assured there is no ban on (nuclear) testing but you must remember that we had voluntarily said during (then prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee's time that we would not do any testing for the time being. We have imposed a voluntary moratorium on testing which almost all the countries have done. So, about testing, the prime minister had not mislead Parliament.
Another point I feel many commentators have not concentrated upon is looking at the pre-deal and post-deal situation. If the deal doesn't come through, we will continue to be a nuclear pariah and will continue to be in isolation. America is the sole superpower which can help India get out of this nuclear isolation. This will also help us in respect of biology, nano technology, development of many things.
America says unless you become a responsible power, we cannot trust you with this technology because this can be used for developing weapons of mass destruction too. Remember we have not signed the NPT and CTBT so far.
To say that India will become a slave of the US if we sign the deal shows we have no self confidence. The US could not do anything to a small country like Cuba which is next door.
I feel sorry for Manmohan Singh. He has done a good job but the poor man is in a soup now. He has invested a lot of political capital in this deal. It is a one man show. I won't be surprised even the Congress party slowly turns against him because this issue has another side to it. The feeling that is coming up everywhere is, pro-Americanism is anti-Muslim. The Congress party would not like to be seen as pro-American which indirectly means anti-Muslim.
There is a possibility that Manmohan Singh will be replaced but who else? The Congress party will be doing a lot of arithmetic now. If there is a general election now, even the Left will not get the 60 seats they have now. But the Left feels it is a good issue to go to the people because you can also present it as a pro-Muslim attitude. But nobody wants a mid-term election.
The committee to look into the Hyde Act is a buying time mechanism. But what is the credibility of the country if it went back on the deal especially till the other day you were pressing to do it fast? Reversing the gear is very difficult for a government.
Here, I must say the BJP is playing a dirty game. Vajpayee is the man who has started the whole thing and the party is ideologically committed to the US. Now the BJP is acting as if they are more opposed to the deal than the Left.
I would say India and the US are natural allies.
There should be a debate on this issue in the country. People should know everything about this. Unfortunately, it is not presented well to the public at all. Let alone the general public, I feel perhaps only a few MPs know what exactly the 123 deal is.
Shahid Azmi, lawyer, Mumbai
I have not read much about the nuclear deal. However, past experiences of the US vis a vis India has not been good.
If you see their history you will never find the US doing good to any Third World country until and unless it serves their interest.
They have always taken larger share of the profits in any relationship and offered only peanuts to any developing country. I don't trust them because of past experiences.
They rule the world by might. They destroyed Iraq for no reason. If you see they applied sanctions against North Korea and Iran when they are trying to go nuclear. At the same time the US has tested all kinds of nuclear technology.
Shahira Naim, journalist, Mumbai
I feel nuclear energy is not cost effective. The US wants to dump its environmental hazard onto our country and the Congress government is ready to accept it without any problems. There are other ways to produce energy requirements. Why not we take such steps?
If tomorrow there is some problem in this nuclear energy production then Indians will suffer like it happened in Chernobyl. If you buy something then you must first see whether the cost is worth it. And this deal is definitely not worth it.
There are political implications as we are surrendering our national interest to the US by signing this deal. I wonder why the Congress party is willing to pay such a huge cost for this deal. Any decision that is not popular with the people of India should not go ahead, therefore I feel this deal should not go ahead.
There are already issues like inflation and unemployment. We are not even talking about such issues, and rather wasting time on this nuclear deal. India today has the best of brains and the world acknowledges this fact. Why not utilise such brains to produce energy needs for India rather than depending on the US?
Interviews conducted by Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Raja Sen, Shobha Warrier, Indrani Mitra Roy
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