One suspects that the last word has yet to be said on the Ronen Sen impudence and its aftermath, not to speak of the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement which has nothing to do with the Leftist stance. In regard to Sen, The Free Press Journal (August 24) came down heavily on him, saying that ?if his latest feat is anything to go by, diplomats are now sent abroad to abuse the Opposition and other domestic critics of the government in power in the home country?.
Saying that ?it was not for him to waddle into partisan politics and abuse its critics? the paper said: ?Sen himself can solve the dilemma of the clueless Prime Minster by volunteering to step down.? And it asked: ?Will Sen resign and free himself from the chains of office and then have the courage of his convictions to defend the deal he had so painstakingly negotiated?? It added: ?The government has a problem on its hands. It does not want to penalise Sen, especially because of his proximity to the Gandhis.?
The Tribune (August 24) differed. Even while it conceded that ?there was no need for a seasoned diplomat like Indian Ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, for making the headless-chicken statement?, ?to pillory him for his comments on the deal is to go too far?. Said the paper: ?If he is passionate about the deal and believes that it is one of the best things to have happened to India, he is entitled to such an opinion.? And it added: ?It is a pity that Mr Ronen Sen'sstatement has come in handy for the Opposition to beat the government with.?
The Hitavada (August 17) said that ?the difficulties facing Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh? are of his own making? and that ?his assertion that India retains the ?sovereign? right to conduct a nuclear test is not the whole truth in the context of the nuclear deal (but) is ?only a technical fact.? When Ronen Sen made his statement did he say that his comments were off the record?
According to The Week'sWashington correspondent, (September 2) Sen ?had made it clear to the journalist that his telephonic conversation was off the record and that he was not to be quoted at all?. The journalist Rediff India Abroad'sManaging Director Aziz Haniffa has denied it saying that ?at no point of the telephonic conversation did the Ambassador specify that it was off-the-record or even on background?. Who is lying? What have some of our intellectuals got to say on the subject?
Writing in Deccan Herald (September 2), N.J. Nanporia said that ?Ronen Sen had no business to make his chicken comment, but it highlighted something no one else could do without offending the official properties.? Nanporia wondered whether Sen did it ?deliberately with the connivance of his superiors bringing to the forefront the emptiness, the idiocy, the hot air and general incoherence of the so-called debate on 123?. Writing in The Week (September 2) S.L. Rao, former chairman of National Council for Applied Economic Research and an energy expert, said that the Indo-US agreement focusing on nuclear energy is unlikely to resolve our energy shortage and ?only maximising the use of domestic and imported coal and gas will resolve it?. The deal, wrote Rao, was ?not about nuclear energy (but) about the bomb?. ?The real intention,? he said ?is to build India as a military power, which can act as a balance to China.?
According to him, ?Our primary energy capacities will come from coal, gas, hydro-electricity and renewables, in that order.? Writing in The Sunday Express (September 2), N.S. Jagannathan said that Dr Manmohan Singh's?uncharacteristic combativeness can only be explained by the hypothesis that he considers this agreement as the crowning achievement of his political life and as a way of ensuring his place in history as more than a footnote.? Jagannathan stressed that ?sceptics are unimpressed by official avowals that Indian foreign policy stances will be based on its own perceptions of right and wrong and would not be determined by US interests?. Further Jagannathan said that ?Indian fears about the adverse political impacts of the deal are indeed legitimate in the light of the fact that some US Congressmen are loudly demanding that India fall in line with US perceptions about Iran'snuclear ambitions? and to crown it all he added: ?Behind all the technical arguments of the critics lie the well-founded distrust about the political and foreign policy implications of a collaborative association with the US.?
But the most cogent?and most damning?indictment of the Indo-US deal comes from Bharat Karnad, Professor at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi and author of Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security. Writing in The Week (September 2), Karnad said that the UPA government'seagerness for a nuclear deal ?predicated on India'snever testing again will ensure that the country'sthermonuclear weapons will remain unproven?. Non-testing, he wrote, ?is detrimental to Indian strategic interests because it freezes the quality of the Indian thermonuclear weapon technology not only at the lower end of the technology ?learning curve? but also at a fault-prone stage.?
He said Delhi acceding to such an accord will mean ?capping India'sfissile material (weapon-grade plutonium) stockpile and, consequently, the Indian nuclear arsenal?. In forcing the deal down Indian throats the US will achieve the first two of its long-standing non-proliferation objectives of ?freeze, cap, rollback?. The third objective, said Karnad, roll-back ?will be realised in due course, by the natural atrophying of India'snuclear weapons technology?? Warning that ?several Hyde Act provisions actively undermine India'sde facto nuclear weapons state status? Karnad underlined what is seldom noticed that ?the Act mandates that India'sforeign policy concerns should be in ?congruence? with US policy, especially on Iran? and will be ?a cause for endless friction in relations?.
Asked Karnad: ?If India is so central for the US to counter China, why does Washington insist on preventing the development of an Indian thermonuclear deterrent to match China'sstrategic forces?? And he answered the question himself saying that ?the reason?apart from the non-proliferating factor?is that keeping the Indian nuclear arsenal small and low-value will leave India dependent on the American military muscle in the event of a crisis.? And he added: ?Sacrificing India'spotential strategic clout for meagre returns is indeed short-sighted?. Are you listening, Dr Manmohan Singh? Says Karnad: ?Strategic myopia has been a traditional failing of the Indian government.? How true!