Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh is desperately trying to salvage a nuclear deal with the United States
that would give his country access to nuclear fuel and technology for its power
plants, despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Mr. Singh says although there is some
political opposition in India to the deal, he hopes to take a positive message
to U.S. President George W. Bush when he meets him at the G-8 summit
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
issued a public plea to his leftist allies in parliament to let the nuclear
deal with the United States
move ahead. That agreement would mandate
international inspections of India's
civilian nuclear facilities and will give access to India to the Western nuclear
technology and the much-needed nuclear fuel for its power plants.
Mr. Singh says before he presents the
nuclear agreement in Indian parliament and the deal goes to the U.S. Congress
for final approval, he has to take certain steps for which the time is running
"We have to go to the IAEA to
get an India-specific (Nuclear) safeguards agreement," says Mr. Singh. "Then we have to go to the
Nuclear Suppliers Group to relax their present restrictive attitudes toward
trade with India
in nuclear materials."
But India's communist
lawmakers, such as Prakash Karat, oppose the deal. "The bilateral agreement
negotiated with the United States
administration will bind India
into a strategic alliance with the U.S. with long-term
consequences," says Karat.
India's well-known defense analyst, K.
Subrahmaniyam, says he does not understand the concerns of the left-wing about India's strategic alliance with the United States. "But we have strategic partnership not
only with the Americans. We also have it with European Union. We have it with
Russians. We are having it with Japanese," says Subrahmaniyam. "If things shape out all right, one
day we may have it with the Chinese. Therefore there is nothing very
conspiratorial about strategic partnerships."
South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson
Center, Dennis Kux, says the problem
is that for this group of communists in India the Cold War has not yet
"In the case of India the communists, particularly the group in
parliament just does not want an association with the United States, because this would be in a way a
capstone of the new relationship that has developed over the years between the United States and India," says Kux. "This was really the, from
the Indian perspective, this was the last line on the sand, and the communists
don't want it."
A long time observer of Indian
politics, Walter Andersen at the Johns
agrees that as far as India's
foreign policy is concerned India's
leftists are die-hard communists who do not want India
to get close to the United
"They do not want any kind of
improved relationship [with the U.S.] and they often wrap this up in the mantle
of 'nationalism' to protect the strategic autonomy of the country,
which is also the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] argument by the way. But in
fact unlike the BJP, they are genuinely anti-American," says Anderson.
The communists are not a partner in India's ruling
coalition government, but support it from the outside. Now they say if the deal
goes ahead, they would not support the ruling coalition in a no-confidence
vote. This could mean a new election
earlier than the scheduled polls next year in May.
Apparently, Mr. Singh's Congress Party does not want to call early elections because of the double digit
inflation and the rising cost of the oil.
Reports from New Delhi
say Mr. Singh is trying to bypass his leftist allies and win the support of
opposition parties such as Mulayam Singh Yadav's socialist Samajwadi Party.
South Asia expert Walter Andersen says he
understands Mr. Singh's urgency.
"Something literally has to be
done in the next week or two for the present U.S. Congress to take it up before
the next Congress sits on January 20," says Andersen. "And the next Congress may be less
friendly [toward the deal] than the present one."
He says if opponents in India continue
to delay, time could run out and there will be no deal at all. He says the chances of a new U.S.
administration approving the deal are slim.
"Would a new administration of
Barrack Obama or John Mccain be as enthusiastic? Neither one has shown the same
kind of interest that George Bush has shown. And in fact Obama has shown more
interest in nuclear non-proliferation measures," says Andersen.
In Washington, Senate Foreign
Relations Committee Chairman, Joseph Biden says if India gets IAEA approval, he will
work hard to get the deal approved.
Prime Minister Singh has been
emphasizing to the opponents of the nuclear deal that he is going to ahead with
the nuclear agreement because it is in India's national interest.
South Asia specialist Dennis Kux,
says there is no doubt that India
essentially got what it wanted.
wanted acceptance by the United
States as a nuclear power, it wanted the
various restrictions that it had been put on over the years and it got it. The
negotiations were extremely difficult, extremely time consuming," says Kux. "But in the end
essentially got what it wanted. It was able to keep its military facilities,
there is no inspection of the military facilities. It gets a guarantee of
nuclear fuel. It has access to international technology, civil technology and
it has acceptance really of its nuclear weapon status."
Kux says if at the end of the day India fails to
clinch the deal, it could raise questions about its future as a great power. "This was something the
government of India
negotiated," said Kux. "The government of India
got what it wanted and then it does not appear to have the fortitude to push it
through. That does not put India in the
Kux says considering India's growing economy, the country needs
power, and the deal will provide India not only with power, but
clean power. This story was first broadcast on the English news program,VOA News Now
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