By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI: The waiver granted to India by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for nuclear commerce with it, ending 34 years of the countryâ€™s nuclear isolation definitely marks a major diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (September 6). While it spells celebration for Congress and its allies, the waiver has given opposition parties and the left bloc a serious issue to strongly criticize the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Mixed reactions to India having secured the NSG waiver suggest beginning of a major political battle at home for the Congress, which is going to be a fiery one with national elections less than a year away.
Welcoming the waiver, Singh described it as â€œforward-looking and momentous decision.â€ â€œIt is a recognition of Indiaâ€™s impeccable non-proliferation credentials and its status as a state with advanced nuclear technology. It will give an impetus to Indiaâ€™s pursuit of environmentally sustainable economic growth,â€ he said. Thanking United States and NSG members for â€œensuring this outcome,â€ Singh said: â€œWe look forward to establishing a mutually beneficial partnership with friendly countries in an area, which is important for both global energy security as well as to meet the challenge of climate change.â€
Singh also spoke to President George Bush on telephone thanking him. Besides, â€œThe two leaders expressed their belief that mutually beneficial relations between India and the United States were in the interest of their peoples, and were on a path of steady consolidation and multifaceted expansion, to which both leaders reiterated their commitment,â€ official sources said.
The NSG-waiver will â€œenable India to resume full civil nuclear cooperation with the international community to meet its energy and development requirements,â€ External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said. â€œWe welcome this decision,â€ which â€œconstitutes a major landmark in our quest for energy security,â€ he said. It â€œwill open a new chapter in Indiaâ€™s cooperation with other countries in peaceful uses of nuclear energy,â€ he pointed out.
Congress leader Sonia Gandhi congratulated Singh and Mukherjee for the NSG-waiver. Describing the waiver as a historic moment, Gandhi said it â€œmarks the culmination of enormous efforts and skilful negotiations by our diplomats and nuclear scientists. Three decades of isolation have ended.â€ In a press statement, Gandhi congratulated the Prime Minister for his â€œconviction and commitment to pursue with determination Indiaâ€™s integration with global mainstream to meet requirements of our energy security.â€
â€œThis is a triumphant day for India. The NSG consensus … (is) culmination of years of hard work and cooperation between India and the US to bring India into the global nuclear mainstream,â€ US envoy in India David C. Mulford said.
Hailing NSG waiver as â€œhistoricâ€ and significant victory for not just the government but for all Indians, Congress party spokesman Manish Tiwari said: â€œIt is a historic day for India. It is a red letter day.â€
Describing the waiver as a great victory for India, which will help in the countryâ€™s development, Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Amar Singh said: â€œIndia needs development and not nuclear bombs.â€ He also criticized the Indo-US dealsâ€™ opponents for â€œbeating around the bush.â€
While the NSG-waiver has spelt â€œvictoryâ€ for Congress party and its allies, the opposition parties and the left bloc who have opposed the Indo-US nuclear deal think otherwise. Describing the waiver as a â€œstage-managed show,â€ Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi blamed the PM for having â€œcompromised on national interests.â€ â€œIn spite of winning the vote at the NSG meeting, the prime minister has lost the battle at home. The deal, in its present state, is going to have long-term consequences,â€ he said.
Senior BJP leader and former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said: â€œThe Congress is saying that this will end Indiaâ€™s nuclear isolation. We believe this does not hold any ground.â€ â€œIndia has walked into a non-proliferation trap. It has lost its right to conduct nuclear tests forever. NSG guidelines are tougher than the Hyde Act,â€ Sinha said.
â€œThis is an injustice done to the generation next to come. The Manmohan Singh government has taken an unfortunate decision by submitting our authority before the United States,â€ Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader A. Vijayaraghavan said.
Indian politicians opposed to the deal have been further enraged on contents of a â€œsecretâ€ letter published in The Washington Post, just ahead of NSG meeting in Vienna. The controversial contents made public by Republican Howard L. Berman, Chairman of House Foreign Affairs committee, are viewed as at variance with the stand maintained by India so far. The 26-page letter states that the United States would help India deal only with â€œdisruptions in supply to India that may result through no fault of its own,â€ such as trade war or market disruptions. â€œThe fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of nonproliferation commitments,â€ the letter says. The Indian government is expected to take â€œletterâ€-issue with the Bush administration, sources said.
The letter has provoked the dealâ€™s opponents to blame the government for â€œmisleadingâ€ the Parliament, â€œhiding factsâ€ and â€œlyingâ€ to the people over the nature of the deal. CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said: â€œThe only option left to them (UPA) is that the Prime Minister should quit. But neither will they convene Parliament session nor will they quit. It is a shameless government.â€ Describing the waiver as a step in direction of total surrender of countryâ€™s nuclear rights, Karat said that the US orchestrated the NSG waiver as it wants the 123 Agreement to be operationalized. The waiver is in conformity with the Hyde Act. â€œAny new government that comes to power after next elections other than Congress should get the Indo-US nuclear deal terminated,â€ Karat said. The left would continue its struggle in this regard, he asserted. India has now become part of the â€œnon-proliferation regime, which we have always found to be discriminatory and resisted so far,â€ Karat said.
â€œWe continue to be opposed to 123 agreement. Itâ€™s a surrender of all our sovereign right,â€ Communist Party of India (CPI) national secretary D. Raja said. In a statement, the CPI said that it is â€œnot a historic day but a black day for India as far as our nuclear program is concerned. This waiver will kill our efforts to develop nuclear technology based on thorium.â€ Another strong opponent of the Indo-US nuke deal, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, who is also Uttar Pradesh chief minister, described the development in Vienna as a â€œblack dayâ€ for India.