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Oh tangled web: A conspiracy behind the nuclear agreement?
Rajeev Srinivasan
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July 22, 2008
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive! --
Sir Walter Scott

It is worth asking once again whether the Indo-US nuclear deal is beneficial to India. Not being a subject-matter expert on the minutiae of the IAEA agreement, I read the published views of a many commentators. It appears that the verbiage is so ambiguous that it has not changed anyone's minds: those who opposed the deal before have not been convinced that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread; those who liked it before continue to like it.

It appears to me, based on the above, that the agreement:

  • Does not give India any unique status, but is identical to the agreement with non-Nuclear Weapons States, and quite different from one with the P-5.
  • Does not guarantee fuel supply, but guarantees perpetual IAEA inspections.
  • Does conform to US domestic legislation like the Hyde Act.
  • Does not allow India, unlike the P-5, to unilaterally withdraw its facilities from intrusive inspections.
  • Does not specify what 'corrective steps', if any, India may take in case of supply disruptions; to wit, there are no corrective steps.

None of these is desirable. These justify my concerns about this exercise as expressed in several previous columns: The deal that refuses to die, That hoax called non-proliferation, Bushwhacked: Why the nuclear deal is (still) a bad idea, That Obscure Object of Desire: Nuclear Energy.

It is useful to remember what the deal is supposed to be all about from the Indian point of view: it is about one tangible outcome -- the acquisition of energy security; and about one intangible outcome -- the cooperation and support of the US in making India a major strategic power.

However, it is not clear that either of these outcomes is a given. There are no guarantees being given by anybody that they will ensure the supply of uranium to India in perpetuity in exchange for India opening up its civilian facilities to intrusive inspections by the IAEA. And the US is certainly not giving India the status of one of its close allies, like those in NATO.

Therefore, it appears that the agreement is all about satisfying the American point of view -- which is almost entirely about non-proliferation, and about bringing India under the ambit of a number of treaties. It is strictly about India signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-Nuclear Weapons State, which leads to what American non-proliferation fundamentalists have been pushing all along: 'Cap, rollback, and eliminate.'

In addition, India is also signing the CTBT through the back door, possibly the FMCT, and putting many of its facilities under intrusive inspections by the IAEA (the same IAEA, we note in passing, that conveniently reported that Iraq had nuclear weapons.)

The problem with all this is that, far from assuring India's energy security and helping it become a top-notch military power, this agreement merely guarantees that India will be a sitting duck for Chinese and Pakistani nuclear blackmail. This may have disastrous consequences.

Being unable to deter China in its adventurism, India will not also be able to adequately deter its proxies Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal. The result of this could even be an extinction of the India nation, as Bangladesh pursues its lebensraum, China pursues the diversion of the Brahmaputra, Pakistan pursues the death by a thousand cuts, and Nepal's newly emboldened Communists pursue their Pasupati-to-Tirupati corridor.

It is unclear why the Americans are going along with this agenda, except that they may still be suffering from Cold-war-itis. The Americans are obviously considering this a coup for themselves, and I speculate they have several objectives, none of which is good for India:

  1. mercantilist: To support companies like GE and Westinghouse which will benefit from the sales of reactors.
  2. strategic: To keep India militarily weak as a precursor to prying loose the Northeast in an operation similar to how East Timor was detached from Indonesia.
  3. tactical: To ensure that India continues to be as dependent on uranium suppliers as it has been on oil suppliers, which means outsiders have their hand on India's jugular, and the spigot can be turned on or off to keep India docile and obedient.
  4. just plain opportunistic: To strike while the iron is hot, while their good friend controls the Indian government.

The fact that the Americans are up to no good is evident from the heavy-duty pressure tactics they have been up to, including the snake-oil-salesman techniques bordering on a 'protection racket' a la the late lamented Al Capone -- something you would see in a film-noir with its betrayals and double-crossings: I am reminded specifically of the brilliant Chinatown, where an unsuspecting Owens Valley is relieved of all its water. India is similarly being relieved of its right to protect itself.

And what is China's angle in all this? An India defanged as a forever inferior non-nuclear state is good news for China, as it can pursue unfettered imperialism in Asia. In that case why have China's proxies, India's Communists, been so loud in their opposition to the deal? Maybe China has only been pretending to oppose the deal as a rhetorical ploy?

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I am beginning to wonder if this isn't a great example of collusion between the US and China. If so, the two have played the Good Cop-Bad Cop routine to perfection. At the end of the day, India would have been hoodwinked into permanently giving up any hope of escaping from banana-republic-dom. This is a Himalayan blunder for India, but just perfect for the US and China.

The Chinese made all the proper noises about how they hated the deal, and their acolytes the Communists were strident in their opposition to it. To their credit, they did not mince words: They said it would hurt China. This convinced many in India who subscribe to the axiom that anything the Communists like is bad for India; conversely, something they dislike must be good for India. Only, in this case the truism didn't hold good, but Indians, Pavlovian-fashion, rushed in, to mix metaphors wildly.

Besides, the mega-propaganda campaign unleashed by the UPA recently has been a great success. There is no news about inflation; nor about terrorists continuing to lob grenades at Amarnath pilgrims; or anything else at all, other than the unseemly circus in Parliament. Tremendous diversionary tactics, indeed!

The net result is that the Americans (and possibly the Chinese) have pulled off a coup. It's Tibet [Images] redux: India gave away its substantial treaty rights in Tibet to China in return for absolutely nothing, prodded by an imperious prime minister. A member of his dynasty has now engineered the giving away of India's strategic independence in return for nothing. India is being sold a bill of goods. Yet again.

For once, Marx was right: history is repeating itself, once as tragedy, next as farce.

Rajeev Srinivasan
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