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Coverage: Indo-US Nuclear Tango
Speech by L K Advani, Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha) in the debate on Indo-US nuclear deal on Decemebr 18
I rise to observe at the very outset that today's debate is of great importance to the future of India .
After hurriedly concluding the joint statement with President Bush in Washington on July 18, 2005, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh [Images] stated in a press conference: "It goes without saying that we can move forward only on the basis of a broad national consensus."
As we debate this issue in Parliament today, we see that there is no national consensus in Parliament, no consensus among political parties, no consensus within the UPA and also no consensus among nuclear scientists.
Context of this debate
Mr. Speaker, Sir, This debate is taking place at a time when the fate of India's strategic defence is hanging in balance.
It is taking place at a time when a long series of steps taken by the United States is about to be completed whose consequences would be to first cap , then roll back , and ultimately eliminate India 's nuclear weapons capability.
It is taking place at a time when India is about to be locked into the discriminatory regimes of the NPT and the CTBT, which India has consistently rejected as unacceptable.
It is taking place at a time when India 's independence in foreign policy and seeking options of its sovereign choice in strategic matters is sought to be curtailed.
I say this because, every single assurance given by the Prime Minister to Parliament is being violated as the UPA Government goes ahead to negotiate a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States within the framework set by the recently enacted US Congress's legislation, known as the Hyde Act. This Act also lays down India-specific conditions in relation to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. Yet, the UPA Government is proceeding to negotiate and meet those terms.
UPA Government's 'Theatre of the Absurd'
Let me here recall a categorical assurance given by the Prime Minister in his speech in Parliament on August 17. He said, "I would again reiterate, in view of the apprehensions expressed, that the proposed US legislation on nuclear cooperation with India will not be allowed to compromise India 's sovereignty. Our foreign policy is determined solely by our national interests."
He then made it even more unambiguous, by saying, "No legislation enacted in a foreign country can take away from us that sovereign right. Thus, there is no question of India being bound by a foreign legislature."
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the relevant law passed by a foreign legislature is now in front of us, in black and white. It makes a mockery of everything the Prime Minister had assured Parliament through his various statements, including on August 17 as well as earlier on March 7 & 10, 2006; February 27, 2006 ; and July 29, 2006 .
And yet, there are people in the UPA government who are tomtomming the US Congress legislation as a great victory for India !
They are pointing to the bipartisan support in the US Congress for the Hyde Act.
Just because there was bipartisan support in the United States for further tightening the controls on India 's strategic and civilian nuclear programme, our friends in the Congress party are projecting it as a signal achievement!
The legislation was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support only because it took on board various non-proliferation objectives of the United States and imposed major conditionalities on India .
Truly, what we are witnessing is a Theatre of the Absurd .
Growing circle of concerns
Mr. Speaker, Sir, this is the second time that Parliament is having a major debate on this issue. The first time was in August when the US Senate and House of Representatives had not yet passed their respective bills to permit conditional waivers from the Atomic Energy Act of the USA to enable the Bush administration to enter into a bilateral agreement with India on civilian nuclear cooperation.
There was a lot of concern in India over the conditionalities and stipulations, which the foreign affairs committees in the two houses of the American legislature were trying to introduce. The concern was voiced not only by the BJP and other opposition parties, but also by the Left parties, which are partners in the UPA. The community of our nuclear scientists was also deeply concerned.
In August, all of us in the Opposition, as also the Left parties who are allies of the Government, wanted a matter as serious as this to be debated in Parliament.
Honourable Members will recall that the Government was most reluctant to have the issue debated in Parliament. It was vociferously opposed to any "Sense of the House" resolution passed in Parliament, as was being mooted both by the NDA, the Left parties, TDP and the Samajwadi Party.
Perhaps what alarmed the Government was when eight eminent nuclear scientists issued a joint statement voicing their apprehensions about the nuclear deal and appealing to parliamentarians to debate the issue in Parliament.
Finally, the Government agreed to have a debate in Parliament.
And I must say that we had one of the best debates in both Houses of Parliament, especially in the Rajya Sabha.
US shifting goal-post is understandable, but why is our PM shifting India 's Laxman Rekhas?
The debate forced the Prime Minister to give a detailed reply, in which he drew many "Red Lines" � or Laxman Rekhas � which he said would not be crossed by India .
Mr. Speaker, Sir, our worry now is not that the United States has shifted the goal post at every stage of the legislative process and thus deviated from the letter and spirit of last year's July 18 joint statement issued by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President Bush.
Our greater worry is that our own Prime Minister seems all too willing to shift India 's Laxman Rekhas farther and closer towards what the United States wants, eventually to break them as the ongoing processes reach their culmination.
I say this because, when we demanded a debate in August, those in the Government said, "Why are you in a hurry? We are working closely with our American friends, who have assured us that all our concerns will be addressed. Why don't you wait until you see the final shape of the US legislation? "
And now that the final text of the US legislation is before us, the very same people are once again saying, "Why don't the critics wait till the 123 Agreement? Why are they in such a hurry?"
It is the height of naivet� to believe that the Bush administration can completely ignore the legislation passed by the American Congress and enter into a bilateral agreement that belongs to an altogether different species!
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we would be indulging in self-delusion if we thought that the 123 Agreement can overturn the Hyde Act.
Trap to de-nuclearise India
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me draw the attention of the House to the trap being laid out for India 's progressive de-nuclearisation as far as our strategic nuclear weapons programme is concerned. I do so by pointing to seven disturbing features of the Hyde Act.
First of all , our Prime Minister had assured Parliament on August 17, 2006 that the Indo-US Nuclear Deal is about civilian nuclear cooperation and not about our strategic nuclear weapons programme.
It is my charge against the Prime Minister that, in saying this he is misleading the Nation.
Anyone who reads the Hyde Act would be left in no doubt that, as far as the United States is concerned, this deal is primarily about capping , then rolling back , and eventually eliminating India's nuclear weapons capability. It is only secondarily about facilitating supply of nuclear fuel and technology to India's civil nuclear energy programme -- that too under severe and often humiliating conditionalities.
I quote from the Prime Minister's own statement: "We have made clear to the US that India's strategic programme is totally outside the purview of the July Statement, and we oppose any legislative provisions that mandate scrutiny of either our nuclear weapons programme or our unsafeguarded nuclear facilities."
Now let me quote from the Hyde Act. It explicitly states that " with respect to South Asia, it shall be U.S. policy to: halt the increase of nuclear-weapons arsenals in South Asia , and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination."
The Hyde Act places on record, not once but repeatedly, its opposition to India 's further development of its nuclear weapons programme.
Actually, there is nothing new or surprising about the US opposition to India 's nuclear weapon capability. Former President Dr. R. Venkatraman , who was also India 's defense minister, has gone on record to disclose how the Congress government was forced to abandon, almost at the eleventh hour, the planned nuclear tests under American pressure.
Forcing NPT on India through the backdoor
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me draw the attention of the House to an important point in the joint statement issued by eminent nuclear scientists on December 15. They have said, and I quote, "In responding to the concerns earlier expressed by us, the Prime Minister stated in the Rajya Sabha on August 17, 2005 that 'Nuclear weapons are an integral part of our national security and will remain so, pending the elimination of all nuclear weapons and universal non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament. Our freedom of action with regard to our strategic programmes remains unrestricted. The nuclear agreement will not be allowed to be used a backdoor method of introducing NPT type restrictions on India."
After quoting from the Prime Minister's own statement, our nuclear scientists conclude, "And yet, this Act � namely, the Hyde Act � totally negates the above assurance of the PM."
This conclusion has been drawn by the worried community of our nuclear scientists, to whom goes, chiefly, the credit for making India a nuclear power through sustained self-reliant efforts.
If the Prime Minister still chooses to go ahead with the nuclear deal in the framework of the Hyde Act, we in the Opposition are left with no option but to charge that the Prime Minister is consciously and willingly keeping the backdoor open for the US to bring in NPT fetters on India .
Equating India with Pakistan
Mr. Speaker, Sir, there is another disturbing aspect about the US legislation: namely, how it equates India and Pakistan .
The Hyde Act not only equates India with Pakistan repeatedly but it also directs the administration to "continue its policy of engagement, collaboration and exchanges with and between India and Pakistan ."
Our fears are further aggravated by what the US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher has said. He has observed that India should define its deterrent only in relation to Pakistan and enter into "mutual understandings" with Islamabad "in both conventional and nuclear areas."
I may recall here that, when China conducted its first nuclear test at Lop Nor in 1964, my party, which was functioning as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh then, was the first political party in India to demand that India should have a minimum nuclear deterrent of its own. We have consistently advocated this since then.
And when the people of India gave us the mandate to govern India in 1998, our very first major decision was to make India a nuclear weapons power.
The NDA government had made it repeatedly clear that India 's strategic nuclear weapons programme is not Pakistan-centric, and that India should have credible minimal deterrence against any threat from any source to our national security.
Nuclear apartheid will continue for India
The Prime Minister's second assurance to the nation was that, by signing this deal, India would no longer be subjected to a regime of nuclear "apartheid". By this he obviously meant that India would be accepted as an equal member of the elite club of nuclear weapons states.
In his statement in Parliament on February 27, 2006 , the Prime Minister had assured the Nation: "We believe that when implemented, the understanding reflected in the Joint Statement will give India its due place in the global nuclear order ."
We now know that there would be nothing of the kind. Indeed, by staying in the deal, India would condemn itself permanently to the status of a Non-Nuclear Weapons State. Although t he Hyde Act acknowledges India's nuclear-weapons programme, it nevertheless classifies India as a non-nuclear-weapons state and explicitly mandates it be kept out of the nuclear club for all time.
Here I would like to lay bare another example of self-delusion and obfuscation by the UPA Government. Spokesmen of the Congress party and the Government claimed that the 18 July 2005 joint statement by Prime Minister Singh and President Bush, which described India as "a responsible State with advanced nuclear technology" , was proof that the United States in effect recognised India as a "Nuclear Weapon State".
It was like an imperial power giving an exalted appellation to its colony, whereupon the colony started to believe itself to be free!
But soon the reality set in. When Ms. Condoleezza Rice [Images] , the US Secretary of State, was asked about the status that India would have under the US law as well as in regard to the IAEA, her reply was candid and categorical. She said:
"While India has nuclear weapons and we must deal with this fact in a realistic, pragmatic manner, we do not recognise India as a Nuclear Weapon State or seek to legitimise India 's nuclear weapon programme."
"The 1968 Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) defines a 'Nuclear Weapon State' as 'one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967 .' India does not meet this definition, and we do not seek to amend the Treaty to provide otherwise. US law adopts the NPT definition, so India is a Non-Nuclear Weapon State for purposes of US law."
This understanding is now enshrined in the Hyde Act itself. Hence, my questions to the Prime Minister are:
Thirdly, Honourable Members of this House will remember that "reciprocity" was another major plank of the Prime Minister's justification for the reactor separation plan under the Indo-US nuclear deal.
He had assured Parliament on July 29, 2005 that India will " reciprocally agree that it would be ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices and acquire the same benefits and advantages as other leading countries with advanced nuclear technology, such as the United States ."
Well, the Hyde Act explicitly rules this out. Instead, it enumerates wide-ranging non-proliferation controls on India, including fetters on the Indian nuclear military capability, which none of the five Nuclear Brahmins are subjected to.
Foreclosing forever India's option to conduct Pokhran III or IV
Mr. Speaker Sir, my fourth objection to the US legislation is that, if the deal based on this legislation is accepted, India will simply have to say "Goodbye" to all future nuclear tests, even though neither the US nor any of the other officially-designated Nuclear Weapons States will be under any such obligation.
The Prime Minister had declared in Parliament on August 17, 2006 : "We are not prepared to go beyond a unilateral voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing as indicated in the July statement."
Yet, Section 106 of the Hyde Act decrees that civil nuclear energy cooperation with India "shall cease to be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear-explosive device after the date of the enactment of this title."
In its Explanatory Notes, the Hyde Act leaves no scope for uncertainty. "There should be no ambiguity regarding the legal and policy consequences of any future Indian test of a nuclear explosive device. In that event, the President must terminate all export and re-export of US-origin nuclear materials."
The US lawmakers do not stop there. In the event of a future nuclear test by India, for any reason, including � and I am quoting the exact words from the Hyde Act � "such instances in which India describes its actions as being for 'peaceful purposes', they state, "The President must make full and immediate use of the US rights to demand the return of all nuclear-related items, materials and sensitive nuclear technology that have exported and re-exported to India."
In other words, had India accepted such a coercive deal previously, neither the Congress government would have been able to conduct Pokharan I nor the NDA government would have been able to conduct Pokharan II .
My question to our friends on the Congress benches is simply this: Would you like to mortgage away India's sovereign right to conduct Pokharan III or IV in the future? And by signing this coercive deal, wouldn't you be agreeing to push India back to its pre-Pokharan status � that is, as a non-Nuclear Weapon State, both de jure and de facto?
I demand a categorical answer from the Prime Minister on this.
Our suspicion: PM is one with the US in wanting India to be de-nuclearised
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me express a lurking suspicion that the Prime Minister perhaps wants no more Pokharans, and that he would indeed be happy if India got de-nuclearised.
After all, when the Vajpayee government conducted Pokharan II, it was Dr. Manmohan Singh who spearheaded the Congress party's criticism. In the monsoon session of Parliament in 1998, Dr. Singh warned of the consequences of the tests and a costly arms race. He further said that the tests and the attendant consequences would send defence expenditure skyrocketing.
If one looks at his zealous pursuit of the Indo-US nuclear deal, with all that it entails, one begins to suspect that Dr. Singh genuinely shares the US goal about de-nuclearisation of India.
I am happy that our eminent nuclear scientists have once again, through a statement issued on Friday, cautioned the Prime Minister against accepting this control over our strategic nuclear programme. Let me quote from their statement issued on December 15:
"In view of the uncertain strategic situation around the globe, we are of the view that we must not directly or indirectly concede our right to conduct future nuclear weapon tests, if these are found necessary to strengthen our minimum deterrence."
Promised: "Full" cooperation; Delivered: Partial cooperation with humiliating controls attached
Fifthly , The Prime Minister had affirmed in Parliament on August 17, 2006: "Our offer to put (our civil) nuclear facilities under safeguards in perpetuity is conditional upon these facilities securing fuel from international sources for their lifetime ."
Further, in his statement in Parliament on March 7, 2006, while commenting on India's plan to separate its nuclear programme into civilian and military parts, the Prime Minister again assured the House: "The United States will support an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India's reactors."
The Hyde Act, however, neither guarantees "uninterrupted supply of fuel" nor allows India to accumulate fuel to cover safeguarded reactors' lifespan. In fact, it explicitly bans this kind of cooperation.
The Act says: "Any nuclear power reactor fuel reserve provided to the Government of India for use in safeguarded civilian nuclear facilities should be commensurate with reasonable reactor operating requirements."
The Act's explanatory statement states that India will not be allowed to build any uranium stock of a size that would permit its " riding out any sanctions that might be imposed" by USA in the future.
Fuel supply thus is to be limited to the operating needs, as opposed to the prospective needs, even in those civil nuclear reactors that India will have opened up for international inspection permanently.
If this is not a humiliating condition, I wonder what else can be.
Controls on fissile material production
Sixthly, the Prime Minister had asserted in Parliament on August 17, 2006 that, "We are not willing to accept a moratorium on the production of fissile material." He went on to say that India can accept only a "non-discriminatory, multilaterally negotiated and internationally verifiable" Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).
Yet, the Hyde Act, seeks to impose both qualitative and quantitative ceilings on India's nuclear-deterrent capability, and lays great emphasis on getting India to cease all fissile-material production.
Mortgaging India's independent foreign policy
The seventh disturbing aspect of the Hyde Act is the blatant manner in which it seeks to curtail India's independent foreign policy.
In his statement of August 17, 2006 , the Prime Minister had assured that "nothing would be done to affect the country's independent nuclear programme or its sovereign foreign policy."
How does this square with the Hyde Act? Its Section 102 states that one of the reasons why it recommends nuclear cooperation with India is that " India has a foreign policy that is congruent to that of the United States, and is working with the United States on key foreign policy initiatives related to non-proliferation."
Section 103 states that one of the US policy objectives, to be realised through the nuclear deal, is to "secure India's full and active participation in the United States efforts to dissuade, isolate, and, if necessary, sanction and contain Iran for its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction."
It is obvious that Washington is virtually dictating what India 's foreign policy towards Iran should be!
How can India mortgage its foreign policy to the strategic objectives of the United States?
* * *
The PM cannot "square this circle".
Hence our demand: Reject the Nuclear Deal!
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the Prime Minister had pledged in Parliament on August 17, 2006 that "if the final product is in its current form, India will have grave difficulties in accepting the bill. The US has been left in no doubt as to our position."
Well, the final product is now out before us, in clear, categorical, black-and-white terms. And it flies in the face of all the assurances that the Prime Minister had solemnly given in his various statements in Parliament.
Not only are our concerns not addressed, but the US legislation has placed new controls on India. It is almost as if the US wants to have extra-territorial jurisdiction over India 's nuclear programme, and the UPA government seems intent to help Washington in this regard.
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