The din and dazzle of the three-day official visit of US President George W Bush is yet to settle. The ruckus created by the Left-Muslim anti-US lobby and the controversy over the Indo-US nuclear understanding have left a long shadow over the national psyche.
It is the first time in India´s history that a visiting dignitary was subjected to the kind of hostile hooliganism, that too by a section of the ruling coalition. So much so that the usual courtesy of the address by the US President to the joint session of Parliament was abandoned.
The anti-Bush protesters could not articulate any India specific agenda for their uncustomary exuberance. The communists have in the bargain become the political expression of the Jehadis, Talibans and other extremist outfits masquerading as protectors of Islam. The line up has made it easy for us to understand the otherwise complicated import of the nuclear partnership. In some situations an action is explained better by the reaction.
The protests were organised largely by the same segment which violently opposed India´s Pokharan II implosion in 1998, which established the country as a nuclear power. They were one with the countries who imposed sanctions on India, which included the US, and their argument was that India was engaged in an armamental race and that a poor country like India cannot afford to go nuclear. The Marxists, who worship Stalin and Mao as their icons, have no right to protest Bush´s visit in the name of crime against humanity. They did not protest General Musharraf´s visit to India?rather they warmly welcomed him?though he imposed a bloody and treacherous war on India in 1999. The Marxist objection to the nuclear deal ironically is because it allegedly goes against Chinese interest. Are they protectors of Chinese interests in India?
However, there are genuine concerns in India about the contours of the Indo-US deal. The Indian nuclear programme is completely swadeshi and the country has refused to sign the NPT all these years because of its belief that it has a right to develop a credible nuclear deterrent for defence purposes, because of the peculiar strategic position in which it is located. And this programme was developed entirely indigenously, unlike some other countries who either stole or borrowed the technology. It is not possible to give away this passionately nurtured expertise.
The fear is that the deal will in some way cripple this initiative. The separation of Indian reactors into civilian and military will involve a huge additional financial burden on the country. And it will lead to a situation where the scientists and technocrats working in the military segment will have to face a kind of professional apartheid and resource crunch. If that happens it will only be a matter of time before the Indian nuclear deterrent capability becomes obsolete and weak.
There is also the apprehension that US is out to dump its outdated nuclear energy technology on India. And the country will be saddled with huge nuclear waste pile up and their disposal could create new problems for us. But all these are in the long term. Diplomacy is not an open and shut situation. It is a game of endurance, perseverance, persistence and patience. It is a balance between national interest and practical strategy. The Indo-US entente on the nuclear front is a story in continuation. It was the excellent, nimble footed diplomatic offensive undertaken by the Vajpayee government soon after the Pokharan II that culminated in the visit of Bill Clinton as US President to India in 2000 and the lifting of the sanctions by most western regimes. The present deal in a sense ends India´s nuclear isolation. The deal to some degree is a sequence to the NDA policy. India needs investment and technology. The US wants to tap the Indian market. The nuclear deal is only one step forward. The watchword is: cautious optimism.