By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Reprinted from The New Indian Express
With due respect to the efforts made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to display his commitment to carry through the controversial India-US civilian nuclear deal, one is compelled to question the move. It would have been a different issue altogether if the PM had, during his term till now, displayed a similar inclination at all levels. He has not, of which his practically mute response towards checking inflation rate is a mild indicator.Whatever may be diplomatic warmth and courtesy displayed by President George W. Bush in his talks with the Indian premier, let us accept the hard reality.
The United States is a superpower, while India, belonging to the third world, is still known as an emerging economic power.
Simply because India has not yet reached the stage of considering itself on par with the United States, it is all the more imperative for the country to be extra-cautious in placing its own interests at stake to get closer to what is desired by Uncle Sam.How can it be missed that the nuclear deal itself signals compromising by India of its sovereignty in the nuclear zone? If the deal is allowed to come through, it is going to spell greater compulsion for India to sing to the tune desired by the United States.
It would be wiser for India to avoid accepting Bush’s stand on the advantages from the deal.It is pathetic that L K Advani has been projected as a greater threat to the country than Bush.It cannot be ignored that Advani and his camp’s ‘communal’ strategy has targeted less than 15 per cent of the country’s population. The nuclear deal poses a risk — present and future — to security, health and sovereignty of the entire country.
Pray, by which political and diplomatic parameters have the deal’s supporters used the logic of Advani being a bigger threat than Bush? Likewise, despite there being no religious angle to view the deal as “anti-Muslim,” that it has been projected as such is apparently another dismal attempt to corner votes along communal lines.
Coming down to reality, based on the negative opinion held against nuclear energy as a source of power in American circles, it is regarded there as “dirty, dangerous and expensive” lacking public support.
The United States’ nuclear plants take care of less than 20 per cent of the nation’s electricity requirements. It is indeed pathetic that not much importance has been given to large quantities of water needed for nuclear power plants, which if allowed to become functional, would affect fish and aquatic life of lakes and rivers from where they would remove water for steam production and cooling.
Of course, it would have been a different issue altogether, if nuclear power enjoyed wide-based public support in the United States and was not viewed as a problem there.
Besides, the US has not yet found a permanent solution for disposing of its nuclear waste, more than 50,000 tonnes of which are stored at present in 100 temporary locations in 39 states.
Has the present Indian Government given a thought to this aspect? How would it ensure that no section of its population and natural environment is placed at risk? Putting a signature on the dotted lines and securing votes in the Parliament do not guarantee all this.Considering that the US has not yet been able to take care of its own nuclear waste, the deal appears to be more of a nuclear trap for India.
It may symbolize a diplomatic win for Bush by bringing India close to joining the non-proliferation group. But there is hardly any gain for India in the near future.With nuclear power held as the most expensive major source of electricity generation, can India really afford to place the health of its citizens at risk?