Jury still out on Indo-U.S. “unclear” deal
Every newspaper is speculating if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has staked his personal reputation on the deal, will resign to disassociate himself from an administration that failed to save a pact keenly watched by the world.
But are these the arguments India should be debating in the short-term or should we be discussing the real benefits and drawbacks of the deal?
The communists oppose the deal, in large part because they see it as a front for Washington’s strategic bulwark against a rising China and increasingly unstable Pakistan.
Besides, they say there are many holes in the deal that Washington will use to manipulate India’s foreign and strategic programmes, and that nuclear energy is not a solution to the shortage of electricity in the country or rising oil prices.
Why? Because nuclear energy can not meet India’s huge oil consumption in the transport sector, is expensive to produce and will expose India to manipulations by a small international cartel of uranium suppliers.
But most Indians feel, if straw polls by newspaper and television channels are to be believed the nuclear deal is good for India: The agreement is meant to provide India with the means to produce clean energy — a key constraint to economic growth. And the rise in crude prices underlines need for diversified sources of energy (even if nuclear will take ages to fill the gap).
Internationally, the accord represents a long overdue acceptance of India as a responsible nuclear power.
From the pro-deal camp here are a few points to ponder:
* Even if relations sour with the United States, India can turn to France, Russia, Australia or other uranium producers for supplies, courtesy the waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group which is independent of the deal with Washington?
* Why should India not use the deal to get a waiver from NSG and the opportunity to clear its name as a nuclear pariah state?
If the deal falls through, it is unlikely Washington — or any other nuclear nation — will broach the idea of selling nuclear fuel to India anytime soon.
But will that outcome make India more dependent on outside sources for energy, and weaken its own economic prospects against the growing clout of China?
This is the kind of debate that India would benefit from. Focusing on elections may only reap short term political benefits.