In recent times the 123 Agreement between the United States and India has attracted so much media attraction. Interestingly enough, for once the Left parties seem to be in agreement with the BJP.
The Indian Express (August 8) reported that the Left parties have joined the growing chorus of opposition to the civil nuclear pact under the heading: 123 Not Right, say Left.
The report said that ?in words that recalled the BJP'scondemnation of the deal? the Left parties have pledged to ?press for a constitutional amendment for bringing international treaties and bilateral agreements for approval in Parliament.?
The strongest media support came editorially from The Hindu (August 6 ) which said of the Agreement that ?it is sound and honourable and ?the assurances provided to Parliament by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2006 have been fulfilled virtually in their entirety.? In a full-length editorial the paper however admitted that ?realism demands that we recognise the limitations of the 123 Agreement?, noting that ?we must not allow the 123 to become new leverage to pull India deeper into the US strategic embrace, especially in the military and political spheres.? It also said that while Dr Manmohan Singh government deserves ?full credit? for negotiating an Agreement that is ?indisputably to the advantage of India'snuclear programme and energy sector?, it needs to be reminded ?that its breakthrough will count for little if it turns out that the hidden cost is a further erosion of external independence?.
From reports appearing in the media it is clear that the government is trying its best to convince the public that the Agreement is good for the country, an opinion not shared by many scientists. Thus, writing in The Indian Express, A.N. Prasad, a former Director of BARC has taken strong?and logically argued?exception to the treaty, saying that ?we are now in effect reduced to a mere recepient?. state mandated by the Hyde Act to carry out a set of do'sand don?ts and strive to earn a good behaviour report card to become eligible to continue receiving what they (US) can offer?..?
The Pioneer (July 31) carried two articles, one by Satish Chandra which was extremely damning and another by C.P. Dhambri which plainly said that ?the UPA government, for extremely wrong reasons, has put all its eggs in the American basket?. Satish Chandra damned the Hyde Act saying that it ?makes US cooperation conditional on many humiliating provisions restricting the independence of Indian foreign policy?, keeping India ?under constant threat of termination of cooperation?. He also charged that ?the grease lubricating the nuclear deal is the prospect of multi-billion dollar contracts (with US firms) not just for nuclear reactors but also for arms purchases.?
Perhaps the strongest criticism of the deal is in an article that appeared in The Hindu, written by someone who ?has had a long association with India'stechnological establishment and prefers a discussion of the issues rather than his identity.? Obviously he is a top scientist who does not want to the recognised by the government.
The author expressed his surprise that ?commentators seem to be outdoing even the party spokesman in praising the government? adding that ?in the case of the India-US nuclear deal, one must concede that the P.R. machine has been phenominally effective?. It is almost unbelievable. The attack against the BJP?and more especially the Left?has become vicious.
The Times of India (August 9) while conceding that ?there are hurdles still ahead for the Agreement (and) it has to be endorsed by US Congress, the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Suppliers? Group? damned the Left saying that ?it is a ritual with the Left to oppose the government while continuing to support it from outside (and) apparently it does not prevent them from making common cause with the BJP which it otherwise claims to detest?.
The Left, incidentally deserves condemnation for various reasons but surely not on this ground. Why has the Congress been courting the Left if it doesn'ttrust it? If the point is made that our ?national sovereignty? is being sold, according to Jug Suraiya (writing in The Times of India) ?national sovereignty is a portmanteau term? considering that ?sometimes more weightage has to be given to one word and less to the other??and one hasn'tcome across a more strange logic. Suraiya proceeds to damn the CPI which originally dismissed India'sfreedom struggle as a ?bourgeois movement? which it wouldn't?touch with an ideological?. bargepole borrowed from the Soviet Union?.
What has that got to do with the 123 Agreement. And what was The Times of India'sown role in pre-Independence days?
The Indian Express (August 9) was equally vicious. As its editorial put it: ?If the BJP was utterly opportunistic in attacking the nuclear deal with the United States, crude anti-Americanism masquerading as anti-imperialism has pushed the CPM into embracing what it calls right-wing ultra-nationalists.? The CPI-CPM deserve strong criticism, but should this be on the issue of the nuclear deal?
Indian scientists are sulking. A certain kind of terrorism has been unleashed against them to silence them, which is a frightening thought. Are we allowing freedom of thought and expression or is the government trying to shut off any opposition? What are we coming to? If The Indian Express is to be believed, most of the CPM'sarguments like those of the BJP are a deliberate misreading and misinterpretation of the Hyde Act. According to it ?the Congress leadership, however, must have the courage of conviction to call the CPM'spolitical bluff.? ?What is at stake? said The Indian Express ?is not merely nuclear cooperation with the US, but the very history and legitimacy of Congress'sclaim to defending India'snational interests.? Amen. What all this amounts to is to strangle discussion, impose one view on the country held sacrosanct and turn Indian democracy into a mockery. Have we forgotten 1975 and the Emergency? Can'tsomeone argue contrary to the will of the government without being told to shut up? Is political wisdom the monopoly of any one party that every citizen has to accept without questioning? Shades of Sanjay Gandhi! One thought India has grown up. Apparently times haven'tchanged. Nor has the kowtowing media.