That of all newspaper The Hindu which only recently editorially supported the nuclear deal with some innocent caveats should now (August 20) ask the UPA government ?to put the nuclear deal on hold? comes as a surprise. There now seem to be an appreciative shift in The Hindu'sposition in just the last few days. The editorial on the August 20, has come down heavily on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh which indicates that just as the UPA government was using its Public Relations staff with admirable success, the Left Front is now going all out to push its own thinking on the 123 Agreement through.
The Hindu'sfull-length editorial on August 20 was highly critical of Dr Singh. It said that ?for a mild-mannered Prime Minister who leads a government dependent on external support for survival, Manmohan Singh is demonstrating obduracy of a strange and unreasonable kind? and ?his current posture of ?I-must-have-the-nuclear-deal-or-I-go? suggests that the political objective of completing the elected term of the United Progressive Alliance has been subordinated to the great goal of seeing the deal through.?
The paper noted that the UPA government is finding itself ?in a hopeless minority in Parliament on this critical issue? and that ?there is also considerable opposition outside Parliament with the community of scientists and the intelligentsia divided down the middle and the public mood uncertain.? And how did this happen?
The paper said: ?Non-transparency which has been in evidence for much of the time this nuclear deal has been in process, has taken its toll of political and public support and unprincipled compromises such as the US-coerced ganging up against Iran in the governing Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency and deepening military relations with the US have had their influence on political perceptions of the 123 Agreement.?
Therefore, suggested the paper, ?the way to resolve the present political crisis is for the UPA government to put the 123 on hold and for the Congress Party and its allies to persuade Prime Minister Singh who continues to command wide respect in India and abroad, not to be inflexible.? Furthermore, it said: ?False notions of prestige and credibility, within India and internationally must not be allowed to come in the way of this larger political necessity.?
And to cap it all, the paper concluded by saying that ?Heavens will not fall if the 123 Agreement is put on hold and all the issues opened for discussion? considering that ?there is a risk that it may fall by the wayside?.
Yet, the paper said, the risk ?is clearly worth taking, especially if the risk is measured against the virtual certainty of the nuclear deal being buried if the UPA government fails.? The strong editorial was additionally supported by an article in The Hindu on the same day by Siddharth Varadarajan who brought to the readers? attention the fact that ?the Indian 123 Agreement does not contain a sentence found in Article 2.1 of China's123 Agreement with the US namely that the parties recognise with respect to the observations of the agreement, the principle of international law that provides that a party may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.?
What comes as a surprise, noted Varadarajan, is that ?though the Indian negotiators had an identical line in all their drafts, and tried till the end to incorporate it in the final agreed text, the US remained unyielding, claiming that Congress would shoot it down?. Why discriminate between China and India? Is it because China is tough while India is weak-kneed and allows itself to be manipulated?
When the government'spublic relations people sought to win over media support, how come this was not stated? Is it because our columnists and editorial writers are a bunch of ignoramuses who had not taken the trouble to look into the US-India nuclear deal and easily succumbed to government pressures? We may conclude this with Varadarajan'sfinal conclusion which says: ?Deal or no deal, there will always be pressure on the foreign policy front. In a country like India, with sharply polarised class interests, compromising decisions can be taken even without external pressure. India'sability to withstand external and internal pressures will depend crucially on the configuration of political forces within the country at any given moment in time. The balance of forces today favours an independent foreign policy. There is no reason why this should change tomorrow.? To which all that one can say is: Amen.
But is anyone aware of a very promising story that appeared in the same The Hindu on August 19? It is sensational and almost unbelievable. According to the report, written by Pallava Bagla (described as a correspondent for Science magazine), an Indian company has won a contract with the Government of Niger in West Africa which gives it exclusive rights over 3,000 sq kms of the Sahara desert known to be rich in deposits of uranium. The report quotes the Managing Director of the Indian company ( Taurian Resources Pvt. Ltd), Sachin Bijila as saying that the area to be exploited is ?likely to hold at least 30,000 tonnes of uranium which should be enough to meet India'srequirements for the next 1,000 years?.
The Indian company won the contract against huge odds. Niger is not a member of the Nuclear Supply Group, the 45-member organisation that controls all nuclear-related commerce and hence it should be easy for India to access the uranium once the mines become operational. The issue, however, is the time factor: making the mines operational ?will take several years?. But isn'tit worth India'spart to take a look at this development seriously?
Nations that produce uranium now?like Australia?are laying down conditions which practically amount to political blackmail. India must resist it. And under no condition should India play second fiddle to the United States or, for that matter, anybody else, in order to get some concessions. Don'twe have any self-respect?
The Times of India (August 14) looks at it differently. Its argument is that our view ?reveals a deep-seated inferiority complex? and that ?if Marxists are not to lose any more ground in a country that'sturning increasingly assertive and confident, they need to invent politics that goes beyond old-fashioned whingeing.
According to The Times of India, the CPM stand ?belongs to the realm of psycho-analysis rather than politics?. TOI could perhaps do with some self-introspection also.