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Let the nuclear deal go through: Brajesh Mishra
February 27, 2008 13:29 IST
Last Updated: February 28, 2008 12:42 IST
Mishra, who was against the India-US nuclear agreement, now tells rediff.com Managing Editor Sheela Bhatt that the United Progressive Alliance government should go ahead and sign the deal. His current stance is at variance with his earlier views over the matter and the views of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which still opposes the deal.
He was linked to the BJP after his retirement from the Indian Foreign Service. Today, he stands alone in the saffron crowd owing to his support for the deal.
In an exclusive two-part interview, Panditji, as Mishra is known in his inner circle, lays out the nuances, in his inimitable style, on issues like the India-US civil nuclear deal and prospects of stability in Pakistan. The Prime Minister's Office will be pleased to read the way Mishra supports the deal using his unique blend of experience and wisdom.
How do you see the dynamics of the ongoing nuclear deal?
Well, some indications were given by the government on Tuesday (the President's speech to the Houses of Parliament mentioned it). Still, they want to pursue the nuclear deal despite the opposition from the Left and BJP. But we should not confine the assessment of Indo-US relations merely on the basis of the nuclear deal. Much more is happening.
Is it like never before? Are we closest to the US right now?
Yes. Except for the brief period after the Chinese invasion of 1962 when there was some opening between India and the US. Although it was stalled after sometime, today we see the relationship developing very fast and in a positive direction.
US Ambassador David Mulford, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, Senators Joseph Biden and John Kerry and others have once again been pressurising the government to take a decision on the nuclear deal. Where do you stand on the issue?
With regard to Senators Biden and Kerry, I presume they were asked questions by the media. They met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images]; they must have talked about many issues.
I believe the senators did not talk only about the nuclear deal. There is a feeling in the US that it will be a letdown to the Bush administration if the deal is not finalised, as it will be a let down for Dr Singh. So, there is still some hope and some effort to put the deal through. I can't say if it will go through or not. It depends entirely on Indian domestic politics and nothing else.
Right now, what is your stand on the nuclear deal?
As I said two months ago, my main concern has been India's strategic nuclear programme. It came out in the open in 1998 and we pursued it.
Let us presume the nuclear deal is signed, the Left parties object and turn this government into a minority. What is a diplomat's view of the deal after that? Will the deal backed by a minority government remain sustainable and tenable?
My view is that as per the Constitution, Parliament is not supposed to pronounce itself on these matters or cannot dictate the conduct on any policy matters.
But sir, the political weight of the government...
I don't want to talk about politics. That is something the government and Opposition has to decide.
But, is this fact not on the mind of the Americans who are pushing the deal? Can't they see that if the deal is signed there is a possibility that this government may turn into a lame duck government?
You yourself drew attention to the statements of visiting Senators like Biden and Kerry to me. They don't seem to be bothered about the fact that this government might lose the support of the Left parties.
What is your assessment? Will this government take the risk?
I can't make the assessment because that depends upon so many political factors, which are mostly domestic in character.
The Left parties and the BJP strongly oppose the nuclear deal. Will it not cast a shadow over the entire deal and on its implementation? It will remain highly contentious even after it is signed.
What you are talking about is the political argument. And, I don't want to get into the political argument. You raised the issue of the government turning into a minority. I answered that with a Constitutional point of view and not from a political point of view.
There are signs that the government is seriously toying with the idea of operationalising the deal. What will be the long-term impact?
If and when the deal goes through and when India gets an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group on cooperation between India and those 45-odd countries who are members of the NSG, it will be something very good for India.
I am not worried about 'isolation' of India. India needs some high technology and dual use technology items.
If we want our share of nuclear power to increase then we will need energy cooperation with members of the NSG. From that point of view, it will be very good if the nuclear deal goes through.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is in New Delhi. He is mainly talking about the potential of defence ties. How interlinked are issues like India's strategic relations, defence cooperation, nuclear deal and cooperation in Afghanistan?
As I was saying a few minutes ago, there is an overall improvement in India's relations with America. Not merely defence purchases, not merely defence cooperation, not merely the nuclear deal. If it goes through, there is even talk about more and more army and naval exercises and even about Afghanistan. I am sure they are talking about Iran and Iraq also.
There is Indo-French, Indo-UK, Indo-European and Indo-Russia dialogue going on. What is happening is that India is beginning to have its voice heard in an international sphere.
I would say serious attention is being paid towards India.
On the political turf it is being said that the nuclear deal is being done under US pressure. The critics draw attention to the statements of US senators and Ambassador Mulford.
I don't pay attention to their statements. First of all, I don't agree with those people who say that the nuclear deal will only favour the US, as I have said earlier.
India has not succumbed to US pressure on various issues barring one or two unfortunate exceptions. Yes, if the deal goes through on the basis of the 123 Agreement and on the basis of the clean exemption from NSG without qualification I think that will be good for India and not just for the US only.
And, notwithstanding the Hyde Act and its provisions...
I don't bother about the Hyde Act! That is not something that bothers me. The Hyde Act is nothing if you have a look at the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954. That is the mother of all such acts.
Do you think history will be made when India and the US signs the deal?
I have no idea if it will be signed or not. Legally and Constitutionally, nothing stops the government from signing the deal. But politics is another matter. If it goes through it will have an impact not only on Indo-US relations but will have an impact on India's relations with so many other countries that are members of the NSG. Our cooperation with France [Images] and Canada [Images] will increase.
Don't miss the concluding part of the exclusive interview with Brajesh Mishra tomorrow on how Pakistan can achieve stability!