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September 28, 2008
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September 28, 2008

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Home > 2008 Issues > September 28, 2008

The Moving Finger Writes

NSG waiver no Big Deal

By M.V. Kamath

As former President APJ Abdul Kalam said, ?when it is about supreme national interests, no pact, no treaty, nothing can come in our way?. So, by making a unilateral declaration that it will observe a moratorium, India loses nothing. If it serves as a face-saver to some anti-Indian nations within the NSG, what is wrong with it?

So the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has finally decided to provide a waiver to India. In plain words it seems that India supposedly can now secure access to nuclear trade and advanced technology, despite refusing to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But will it get uranium? Australia has already made it clear that it will not sell uranium to India unless it agrees to sign the NPT. If that is the case what good is the NSG?s decision for India? Access to technology etc had been denied to India with a vengeance since it held the first Pokharan tests in 1974. It was a vicious act on the part of the Great Powers to permanently keep

India under their racist thumb. India cocked a snook at them determined to stand up for its self-respect come what may, and proceeded single-mindedly to advance its own technology in pursuance of national security, largely succeeding in its drive. That Pakistan took umbrage at it and conducted its own tests is another matter. Since then India has decided not to conduct any more tests on its own. There is no immediate need to do so, anyway. As of September 2005 India was estimated to have had a stockpile of around 100 to 140 warheads and Pakistan between 60 to 200.

In contrast, the United States stock is between 4,075 and 5,535 and Russian between 5,200 and 8,800 (estimates published by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists). It is highly unlikely that any nation (China, France and the United Kingdom included) would dare to use nuclear weapons at this point in time. Among strategic thinkers in India it is strongly believed that nuclear missiles are not usable war-fighting instruments. They merely proclaim the nation?s capabilities. India has proclaimed that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons and its immediate neighbour to west knows that it would be inviting large-scale disaster if it challenged India in this matter.

India?s Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM) Programme is fully matured and operational and the world is aware of that fact. In the circumstances, when India issued a political statement reiterating its commitment to its unilateral voluntary moratorium, it was not succumbing to outside political pressure but from a genuine inner conviction that use of nuclear weaponry made no sense. Then why did China try to play foul at the NSG meeting?

One can attribute it to pettiness. In the first place China has no moral standing to sit on judgement on India. It has been actively helping Pakistan to process nuclear weaponry and it is a well-known fact. Indeed it has even no natural right to be a member of the NSG. For that matter by what right could Austria, New Zealand and Ireland claim membership of the NSG? As P.K. Aiyangar, former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, put it: ?God alone knows what kind of suppliers they are!? There is a gathering belief that these nobodies were playing proxy to either or both China and the United States the latter merely to show how strongly it has been supporting India?s demand for a waiver, fighting in India?s behalf right down to the last minute.

In the circumstances, all that hype about the NSG waiver being a ?historic occasion? can be ignored. Two points need to be remembered in this connection. One is a statement by current AEC Chairman Anil Kakodkar that the NSG agreement does not say anything about barring India from conducting nuclear tests. As he put it: ?Our legal rights have been preserved?. That, of course, means nothing. If India conducts more tests the Big Powers will once again come down heavily on it, and one should have no illusions on that score. In politics there are no friends.

But, as former President APJ Kalam said, ?when it is about supreme national interests, no pact, no treaty, nothing can come in our way?. So, by making a unilateral declaration that it will observe a moratorium, India loses nothing. If it serves as a face-saver to some anti-Indian nations within the NSG, what is wrong with it? There is certainly no need for India to go abegging. Major powers like the US, France and Russia are just waiting for orders from India for all kinds of technology and nuclear equipment, the cost of which could go into billions. Some analysts have estimated that the deal could generate business worth $100 billion over the next decade as India ramps up power production in the nuclear sector.

ASSOCHAM Chairman Venugopal N. Dhoot puts the figure at Rs two lakh core within 15 years! When asked if there was a risk that American companies would be handicapped if the US Congress does not give its final approval to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal at its closing session, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was quick to point out that the US government has already talked to the Indian Government about this. She told reporters: ?I think they (Indian Government) recognise and appreciate American leadership about this and because of that I think we will have ways to talk to them about not disadvantaging American companies?. One might think that the US has done a great favour to India by fighting for the waiver, but the reverse is equally true. India will be doing an equally big favour to America?s slackening economy and to US business interests. If, incidentally, as Ron Somers, president of the US-India Business Council put it somewhat expansively, ?this landmark initiative will benefit global energy security, stem global warming and brings India into the global non-proliferation mainstream? it is only an additional bonus. Primarily it will greatly help American business interests.

Currently, the Department of Atomic Energy is envisaging the Nuclear Power Corporation (a government-controlled entity) of importing 40,000 MW of nuclear capacity (almost ten times the current domestic nuclear capacity) from countries such as Russia and France. The US does not want to be left behind. Russia is very much in the field. The prospect of six more Koodankulam-type reactors coming up with Russian assistance cannot be dismissed lightly. Not only are foreign companies like Areva of France, Westing-house and General Electric of the US and Atomstryexport of Russian training their sights on the Indian nuclear scene, so are domestic companies like Larsen & Toubro and Tata Power positioning themselves for possible tie-ups with foreign companies.

In the circumstances India does not have to bow and scrape before either the NSG in general and the US in particular for the waiver now granted. For both it is a win-win situation. What is important is for India to know how to exploit the situation to its advantage. To the US it can say: Thank you, but no thanks. What should worry India is a recent report that both the US and China are arranging to provide over 100 fighter jets to Pakistan?s Air Force. That is not a friendly act. The US must especially be warned that it cannot have Indian orders for nuclear plants when Washington is strengthening Pak Air Force to India?s great disadvantage. China, meanwhile, has certainly shown that it cannot ever be a true friend. In shaping its foreign policy India must take that into account.

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