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Dragon tears, not national interest

By Ram Madhav
Last updated on: August 20, 2007 18:25 IST
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Shri B Raman is right; the Communist parties' opposition to the India-United States nuclear deal smacks of utter dishonesty.

More than protecting the national interest, they seem to find vicarious satisfaction in the fact that by hitting at this deal they have succeeded in preventing India and the US from coming closer.

In Andhra Pradesh villages, one would find graffiti on walls by the ultra-Left groups, proclaiming, 'Naxalites are the real lovers of the country.'

The joke used to be -- 'lovers' of which 'country'?

Shri Raman answered that very aptly by referring to another graffiti that he came across in West Bengal -- 'Chairman of China is our Chairman.'

Anyone keeping track of the number of flights the Left leaders have taken to Beijing in the last three years will not find this observation any exaggeration.

Shri Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, who has become the de facto decision-maker for the United Progressive Alliance government, was, according to the media reports, very categorical in his opposition to the deal.

The late Shri Pramod Mahajan used to quip that the UPA government is run by not one, but three PMs -- PM Manmohan Singh, super PM Sonia Gandhi, and the CPM.

Shri Karat's counterpart in the Communist Party of India, Shri A B Bardhan, even declared that the honeymoon is now over and that it is time for a divorce. It is certainly a silly question to ask Shri Bardhan whether honeymoons are so long -- three years in this case -- and if there is nothing between honeymoon and divorce.

But the important point here is that both the Communist parties have registered strong opposition to the nuclear agreement, thus forcing the UPA government into a tizzy.

Many who were opposed to the deal in the present form were impressed by their strident opposition too. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shri Lal Kishenchand Advani even went to the extent of calling up Shri Karat to seek floor coordination.

'India-US nuclear deal is not in the national interest,' declared Shri Karat. One of the Left's biggest problems with the deal is that it could restrict India's sovereign right to testing nuclear weapons. They say if India decides to test, the US will terminate the deal.

The Left wants India to obtain guarantees from members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group when it meets to ratify the deal. This means the NSG members should commit fuel supplies even if the US terminates the deal.

On the deal, Shri Karat reportedly said that while the 123 Agreement is being presented as a victory for New Delhi's position, 'we find that there are a number of issues on which it falls short of what the prime minister had assured the Parliament' on August 17, 2006.

Under the terms set by the Hyde Act, he said, 'it was clear that one of the key assurances given by the prime minister -- that Indo-US nuclear cooperation would cover the entire nuclear fuel cycle, would be violated.'

The primary concern, going by all these utterances of the Left, is that the deal will be terminated in the event of India going for further nuclear tests, and such a provision is tantamount to India's sovereignty being mortgaged to the US. It will suck India into the vortex of America's geopolitical machinations, the Left leaders thunder.

Good music for our ears.

But the problem is history, which puts a question mark on their intentions. Shri Raman took us back to the 1960s when the Left would pompously declare that Chairman Mao is their Chairman.

But we don't need to go that far back in time.

The great concern for the Left now is about our right to future tests. One of their fellow travellers, Justice V R Krishna Iyer, calls it 'nuclear swaraj.' So much concern!

But what were these Left worthies saying when we actually conducted the nuclear tests in May 1998 at Pokhran?

They organised a 'Convention against Nuclear Weapons' in New Delhi on June 9, 1998, less than a month after the Vajpayee government conducted the tests. In a rare expression of unanimity, eminent speakers from diverse walks of life unequivocally condemned the BJP-led government's decision to conduct nuclear tests, says the report published by the organisers -- quite gleefully.

According to that report, 'Shri H K S Surjeet (then general secretary, CPI-M) said that the tests conducted by the BJP government were designed to whip up jingoistic feelings to serve the narrow interests of a government that was struggling to survive. Shri Surjeet said that the prime minister and his Cabinet colleagues have been deliberately trying to instigate Pakistan through their provocative statements linking nuclear weapons to Kashmir and through overt invitation to Pakistan to engage in a war. He said that it should have been apparent even to the entirely naive, that these provocations would force Pakistan -- whose government is also under pressure in its own country -- to conduct tests of its own. As a result, the BJP government's action has only served to dangerously escalate tensions in the region. But, Shri Surjeet said, the BJP's ploy had actually boomeranged, as is evident from its complete isolation in Parliament when the nuclear issue was debated and its poor showing in the recent by-elections. This shows that the people of India do not want war. What they want from a government is peace and development.'

See the rhetoric?

The tests were 'designed to whip up jingoistic feelings.' They 'instigated Pakistan.' They were an 'invitation to Pakistan to engage in a war.' The tests 'only served to dangerously escalate tensions in the region.' And finally, they had even boomeranged because the BJP had been isolated in Parliament and lost by-elections.

This was the Left's famous line just nine years ago -- that the tests are bad. But now, for the same people, the tests are a symbol of our 'nuclear swaraj'!

Honeymoon specialist Shri Bardhan too was present at that 1998 conference. And the report details graphically what his views were on the tests: 'Shri A B Bardhan said that as a result of the government's action we now live under the shadow of fear, under the shadow of a nuclear threat. It was foolish, he felt, to believe that the proxy war being waged by Pakistan in Kashmir can be countered with nuclear weapons. Pointing out the fallacy in the argument that nuclear weapons act as deterrence against war, he said that after 1945 more wars have been fought on earth than ever before in human history.'

If tests are bad, if they are provocative, if they are foolish, if they epitomise jingoism, why this insistence on the right to test now?

The answer lies elsewhere, to which Shri Raman too tried to draw our attention. They are actually singing someone else's song, dancing to someone else's tunes. All this talk about nuclear swaraj, etc is only a veil. The real concerns are elsewhere.

In a tell-tale report in The Times of India with a Beijing dateline, Saibal Dasgupta quoted several Chinese dailies with an apt and insinuating headline 'China's happy that India-US deal's in trouble.'

'Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily said the US has disregarded international opinion to use India as a 'tool for its global strategic pattern' by supporting New Delhi's nuclear ambitions,' the report stated.

At the 'Anti-Imperialism Convention' in Thiruvananthapuram, Shri Prakash Karat thundered: 'The government will have to pay a heavy political price' if it went ahead with the deal. 'The nuclear deal is not an isolated incident. It is part of a strategic alliance between India and the US,' he said.

The CPI-M leader said the Left parties will oppose any move to make India a junior partner of the 'US-led imperialist alliance.'

How can you expect him to say anything different from the People's Daily?

At least the Congress is honest in its disregard for the national interest. It opposed the Pokhran blasts and decried the National Democratic Alliance government for their decision. Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, in the capacity of the president of the party, reportedly drafted a statement severely chastising the government for conducting the tests.

In the 1998 monsoon session their leader in the House Dr Manmohan Singh warned of the consequences of the tests and a costly arms race, which would send defence expenditure skyrocketing -- to a point where 'there would be nothing left to defend.'

Their later foreign minister Shri K Natwar Singh went to South Korea in 2004 only to regret that 'we hadn't crossed the threshold for 50 years. And the Congress Party didn't, it was the other party.' He then added: 'But regret would be futile... you can't put it back in the tube, it's out.'

No surprise that the government led by the very same people -- Sonia and Manmohan -- is letting India down by pushing for this dangerous deal.

But it is certainly dubious on the part of the Left to project their opposition to the deal as 'in the national interest.'

Ram Madhav is a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's Central Executive

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Ram Madhav