The BJP, which once ran a national awareness campaign about the dangers posed to national security and sovereignty by the Italian-born Congress president, would do well to link its opposition to the faulty Indo-US nuclear deal to Ms. Sonia Gandhi'sloyalties to the western world. Unless the BJP quickly seizes the initiative and pins responsibility for what is widely viewed as a ?slave charter? upon the Congress, it is in danger of losing the moral high ground.
Prudence demands that Mr. Rajnath Singh positions the party in a way that it can make new strategic alliances in such an eventuality. He should also filter the media hype and seek to reflect the nationalist suspicion against too much affinity with the United States. The intemperate outburst against nationalist opinion in this country by Mr. Ronen Sen, handpicked by Ms. Gandhi to be our envoy to America, amply proves that the deal was an eye-wash, a fraud on the Indian people. One does not have to be a nuclear scientist to understand that Mr. Sen'svirtual ultimatum to his own country'spolitical leadership that the deal could not be re-negotiated without impacting upon India'scredibility and relations with Washington, betrays the anger of a man caught out while doing a tricky manoeuvre.
Former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh, who lost his job for opposing American colonialism and continuing atrocities in Iraq (as well as to divert attention from Congress complicity in the oil-for-food scam), believes that the UPA government has to address domestic concerns against the Hyde Act. Citing historical precedents, Mr. Singh points out that several important legislations in the world have been scrapped or reworked in order to be acceptable to the people. Nor has it been necessary for Presidents or Prime Ministers to resign on this score.
Thus, American President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) signed the Treaty of Versailles after World War I in 1919, only to have the Senate scrap it. Mr Wilson continued to be President. In our own times, President Bill Clinton ardently advocated the CTBT, but was rejected in his own Senate; he too carried on in office. Then, the European Union conducted a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty; it was rejected in France and Denmark on nationalist grounds, and faced rough weather elsewhere as well for being the handiwork of bureaucrats who would be unaccountable to public opinion. As a result, the entire treaty was re-negotiated and an amicable solution found. The plea that this will adversely affect our international image is a bogey by those who have knowingly compromised national interests and resent being found out.
Ambassador Sen obliquely threatens financial consequences for India when he claims that the prospects of an India-US strategic partnership triggered off an immense interest in India by leading CEOs of American companies, and US Senators, Congressmen, CEOs, presidents of universities, all began to visit India in droves. Some airlines decided to have direct flights to India. It is simply atrocious that an envoy should speak like this in the twenty-first century! What is more, the current experience of China, which invited billions of dollars of FDI and tied up its economy with western multinationals at the expense of the cheap labour of its own people, only to witness the West ruining its toy and garment industry at the drop of a hat, should serve as a warning of excessive subordination to the western economy.
It is pertinent that India is dominant in the Indian Ocean and America wants it to provide western oil transport security here in the face of rising Islamic hostility to the West. The moot point, however, is whether this role of western sepoy enhances or diminishes India'sstatus in the world arena.
Even the economic benefits seem one-way. Washington will rescue its stagnant nuclear industry with heavy Indian investment over three decades. America'sGeneral Electric (GE) and Japan'sHitachi will enter India in joint ventures to build nuclear power reactors. What is more, Washington is expected to exert pressure on New Delhi to further lift restrictions on FDI flow to India and bring down import tariffs. It will also expect to make huge weapons sales.
India, however, does not need this dated nuclear technology. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam and other scientists favour thorium-based nuclear reactors to meet our long-term energy needs. India'sknown thorium deposits are to the tune of 3,60,000 tonnes, and can generate 400,000 MW electricity per year for the next four centuries (this is four times our current output). Our huge thorium deposits permit the design and operation of U-233 fuelled breeder reactors.
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, has spent fifty years researching thorium-based reactors, and India alone has this technology because it alone has adequate thorium reserves. Already a 300 MW thorium based reactor has been designed and is undergoing regulatory clearances. If launched in the Eleventh Plan period, it will be ready in seven years. Thorium produces up to 10,000 times less long-lived radioactive waste than uranium or plutonium reactors, sharply reducing radiation hazards, which make it the fuel of the future. The question therefore arises: why is India abandoning an indigenous and futuristic nuclear programme for dubious, outdated and costly technology from the West? Who are the Indians who are expected to gain from this process?
Finally, Manavalankurichi in Tamil Nadu, Aluva and Chavara in Kerala and Chatrapur in Orissa have the world'slargest reserves of thorium (monazite and ilmenite minerals which also yield another high-value metal, titanium). The BJP should demand that these be designated as ?strategic mineral reserves? and subjected to rigorous safeguards by the Government of India as a security imperative. The Mines Act 2000 should be amended to exclude these strategic minerals from private mining operations in view of their importance for the country'sstrategic nuclear programme.