For reasons best known to herself, the de facto Prime Minister of the UPA government, Sonia Maino Gandhi has apparently directed Manmohan Singh to agree to the extremely harsh conditions offered so contemptuously to this country by the Bush White House. As usual working in total secrecy, two drafts of the proposed ?123? Agreement, have been formally exchanged, and both Manmohan Singh as well as Pranab Mukherjee are forcing the bureaucracy into embarking on a ?conclusive? round of negotiations without winning any non-verbal and symbolic concessions from the US side. These discussions, will be held from March 26 to 30, 2007, and are ostensibly to ?reconcile the differences that remain and work out the way forward? to the surrender of India'snuclear capabilities. Fortunately for their name in posterity, the country'sofficial nuclear establishment has explicitly raised serious technical objections and efforts by Manmohan Singh and Montek Ahluwalia to crush on behalf of Sonia Maino have thus far failed.
While Manmohan Singh publicly assures Parliament that national integrity will never be compromised, privately he is riding hard on the DAE in order to force Dr Kakodkar and his team into the prison cell created for them under the Singh-Bush pact. Despite such tactics, the DAE has retained in its suggestions?several elements designed to preserve and expand the country'sability towards nuclear self-sufficiency and deterrent against aggression.
Sure of their ability to ?persuade? Sonia, Manmohan, Montek and others now in office, Washington has made it clear that key commands contained in the infamous Hyde Act (e.g. the ban on reprocessing) that are at the heart of India'sfuture energy security will not get diluted, and that George W. Bush, fresh from his conquest of Iraq, ?desires that political? decisions will have to be taken at the highest level to push the deal forward?. Given Sonia-Manmohan'sdemonstrated aversion to India'snuclear weapons, the UPA seems on course to destroy forty years of scientific attainment in pulling down India to the level desired by Bush under GNEP, that of Lesotho or Laos. The servitude of Sonia-Manmohan to the diktat of Bush is evident in their acceptance of a conditional engagement with the US, where India is clearly being treated as a non-nuclear weapons state (NNWS) under the NPT. In retrospect it appears that to make this bitter pill easier to swallow, the first Joint Statement made by both sides on July 18, 2005 was couched in misleading language that could be twisted to mean that India would be treated as a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS), when every action of both governments has been to belie this assumption, which even the present writer made in the heady days before September 2005, when scientists first met him to explain just how the pact was ruinous to India'sstrategic future . Through the months that followed, all discussions were concealed even from Parliament and much of the Union Cabinet, in contrast to the transparency shown by the US side.
The commitments seemingly made in the Joint Statement of July 18, 2005 that ?as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, India should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states;? and that the US ?will work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India?, were apparently nothing but hot Texan air. For this was immediately followed by explicit conditions that negated this ?breakthrough? acceptance of the reality of India as an NWS. Over the intervening months, even as Parliamentarians and scientists alike objected to obnoxious clauses on grounds of sovereignty and national integrity, Man-mohan (in the ongoing negotiations) meekly accepted a set of rules applicable to a non-nuclear weapons, even rogue, state.
After the initial lapse from candour, George W. Bush has to his credit been clear and consistent in his determination to rid India of an independent deterrent and thorium-based technology. The Indian position has been deliberately made murky, given the lack of an adequate official response to recent statements made by the US that have described the proposed ?strategic? partnership for what it is?a non-proliferation mechanism intended to bring India into the now tattered NPT fold as a non-nuclear weapons state. Should Congress finally get their way and force this agreement on the nation, not only should the pact be torn up by the successor government, but both should be prosecuted for high treason.
In the present discussions for a bilateral agreement between unequals, one core demand of the Indian scientific establishment is our right to re-process spent fuel with our own technology. This was made clear to the Bush Babies at the earliest stages of the negotiations itself, as the prohibition on doing so strikes at the very heart of India'sfuture energy security (the three-stage thorium cycle).
What Bush seeks is to trap India into an endless uranium demand-and-supply loop, which apart from keeping the powerful international uranium lobby happy, would serve as a useful controlling mechanism for bringing India to heel. The often-sabotaged efforts (as any perusal of the files will show, Montek and Manmohan were especially zealous in their efforts at choking off funding to key projects, including uranium mining) to achieve the commercialization of a thorium-based programme would fly in the face of international uranium interests (which the US has long sought to control) while simultaneously helping this country to becoming a future global contender for the supply of both nuclear fuel and cutting edge indigenous technology. Small wonder Sonia Maino Gandhi is upset at such a prospect, and has got articulated the Jean Dreze view that India should perennially remain an international strategic pygmy.
In a world where an Indo-US bi-lateral agreement dictated by the Hyde Act will probably remain the only achievement of the defunct NPT, the destruction of India'sstrategic potential is well under way. While on the one hand the Manmohan clique privately ridicules the thorium-based cycle, even a US company has admitted that the thorium-based fuel cycle is feasible and that India is at the forefront of this exciting technology.
Another anti-India point agreed to informally by Sonia-Manmohan is the question of inspections by three US-based agencies on every aspect of India'snuclear programme including basic research. When seen in the context of the demand that every ounce of uranium mined in India must be annually reported to the US Congress and other attendant clauses, the non-proliferation focus of the nuclear deal becomes evident.
With the US having to live down the intelligence ?failures, made when it did not detect activities leading up to Pokhran-I and II, the recommendations of the Jeremiah Committee report are particularly interesting as an excellent example of the bureaucratic attitudes towards India that have been made explicit in the Hyde Act. In 1998 following Pokhran-II, Admiral David Jeremiah was asked by George Tenet, the then Director, CIA, to convene a panel to review the performance of the intelligence community. At a press conference in June 1998, the Admiral admitted that it had been difficult to identify Indian nuclear test preparations. Most importantly, the programme was indigenous and not derived from foreign sources making its characteristics extremely difficult to categorise and observe. Apart from other more political assessments, it was recommended that intelligence gathering which included improved analytical methods and bringing in outside experts would be required to integrate regional analysis. Most interestingly, that the data collection priorities should be re-aligned so that high priority Indo-Pak WMDs would be treated with the same urgency as rogue states. Finally, that a management structure system should be put in place so that collection would be tasked as a ?system-of-systems? rather than as individual activities. Tenet accepted all the recommendations and stated that he was ?making it my highest priority to implement them as quickly as possible?. The Hyde Act was born to provide a mechanism for achieving these objectives.
A closer scientific examination of the above recommendations reveals that every harsh condition of Jeremiah is served through various clauses enshrined in the Hyde Act.
First and foremost, and contrary to Indian bureaucratic assertions, we could never hope to be treated as a nuclear weapons state if the NPT yardstick is to be applied. While the Joint Statement of July 2005 leads us to believe that this would be a purely bilateral agreement for the specific purpose of civilian nuclear co-operation as an ?additionality? to a healthy indigenous programme with equal privileges, the subsequent insistence that India sign an Additional Protocol, which examines intent, is a logical extension of being treated as a non-weapons state at par with a rogue nation under the traditional NPT. Of course, thus far there has not been a whisper of protest by Sonia-Manmohan on this absurd formulation.
Secondly, the effective equation of India with Pakistan which overshadows all US dealings with New Delhi serves to provide the yardstick with which curbs on indigenous R&D will be measured. The fact that we do not have an A.Q. Khan or any proliferation record has only earned verbal plaudits of being ?responsible? while in practice being treated as a rogue state. Not only is indigenous science to be fettered and monitored but intelligence gathering can now be officially and overtly conducted in India by the US and the gaggle of states that constitutes the NSG.
Washington is determined that there should be no future intelligence failures vis-a-vis India. The added benefit of acquiring Indian nuclear technology under any inspection regimes and cutting off our weapons programme makes this an opportunity to destroy India as an NWS that is too good to miss. Without effective indigenous R&D, India will forever be condemned to remain a technology slave of nations such as Germany and Japan.
If Sonia-Manmohan have their way and a political decision is taken to accept the US pact, enemies of India within and without can rejoice at a technological and intelligence coup that will ensure that India remains mired in an endless import cycle for conventional technologies associated with the previous century. Clearly, for the ?Hero of Iraq?, George W. Bush, India is not a strategic ally but a target.