Sunday, April 30, 2006

Siachen Sell Out?

The 49 mile long Siachen Glacier forms part of the watershed that separates Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Indian Army has been deployed on the commanding Saltoro Ridge since 1984. The line of deployment is known as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). India and Pakistan appear to be currently negotiating troop reductions in Saltoro. The agreement might entail a redemarcation of the ground position. It is difficult to assess the proposed deal as the negotiations are being conducted in stealth.

M.K Narayanan, National Security Adviser to the Manmohan Singh administration indicated that India and Pakistan were about to reach agreement on the mutual reduction of troops and troop withdrawal in Siachen. In contrast, the Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General J.J. Singh has expressed concerns that "We have conveyed our concerns and views to the Government and we expect the composite dialog between the two countries will take care of all these concerns" and added that "demilitarization is not on the horizon"

The United States might have facilitated discussions on the vexed subject. It is in American interest that Indo-Pakistan relations improve so that the strategic objectives of the United States can be better met in the extended region. Any settlement on Siachen should not compromise India's long term interest to ensure a corridor to Central Asia. India needs to retain its presence to prevent further consolidation of the Sino-Pakistan axis across the Karakoram pass.

This is not to deny the value of mutual troop reductions in Siachen. The current deployment of troops is not cost effective. However, the rumored redemarcation of the AGPL (even if accepted by Pakistan) is not in India's interest. Writing in the Asian Age, former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi says that "while the Indian Army is not averse to vacating the AGPL, if the nation so desires, but wants that what it secured with great effort and many sacrifices, and which it has held safely for the nation, in the face of enemy action, as well as the severity of the climate and the treacherous terrain, for the last 22 years, should not be sacrificed at the altar of expediency, merely to notch up one more CBM towards the ephemeral peace process". He added that "if India withdraws from Saltoro and Pakistan captures it, the situation then becomes irreversible".

Nehru had erred in "conceding" ground control over Baltistan and Gilgit to Pakistan in 1948. That terrain had enormous geopolitical significance given its proximity to Central Asia. Mrs. Gandhi recaptured Kargil - one of three districts of Baltistan - in 1971. India occupied Siachen in April, 1984. Pakistani troops under a certain Brigadier Musharraf unsuccessfully endeavored to undo this in 1987 and in 1999. Recall that before the Kargil aggression of 1999, Siachen was an unoccupied zone since 1949 with the positions of LoC clearly delineated as per the 1972 Simla Agreement. Yet the Pakistani Army had no scruples in violating these borders. There is a good reason not to trust them today since the mastermind of that war is still the ruler of that country.

There are reports that India might even drop its insistence on marking a AGPL in Siachen before withdrawing to show its 'eagerness' for the peace process during Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Pakistan in July. This is an unwise move devoid of strategic considerations. It is in India's long term interest to annex the restive region of Baltistan when Islamabad is preoccupied with domestic insurrections and Beijing focused elsewhere. Any compromise on the line of control could foreclose future options. Moreover, New Delhi can not forego its de jure claim on the territory.

The reported deal benefits Pakistan. Pakistan currently has 80,000 troops stationed in Balochistan to crush an insurrection there. It has another 80,000 troops tied down in the North West Frontier Province/Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Its military is stretched and it needs to urgently redeploy troops. Islamabad now requires a stable eastern frontier to tackle domestic issues to its west. India can use this to leverage better terms. For one, it should not concede on the line of control in the Siachen segment. While Pakistan would find this difficult to accept, India is not pressed for time.

The lack of transparency vis-a-vis the current negotiations is disturbing. India is a democracy where the executive is held accountable to the elected legislature. The authorities in New Delhi need to take Parliament into confidence on an issue of such importance. The Government must realize that its only constituency is the local one, not foreign interests.

Further reading:

Subhash Kapila, India: Government set to repeat strategic blunder of Aksai Chin in Siachen?,South Asian Analysis Group, 2006.

Vishnu Makhijani, From Haji Pir to Siachen, it is deja vu for the Indian Army , IANS, 2006.

Co-authored by Jaffna and Cynical Nerd

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nepal On The Mend?

Via Stratfor:

What India will likely do is employ a two-pronged approach in dealing with the Maoists. Existing fissures among the Maoist cadres over the future of the movement are waiting to be exploited by New Delhi and Kathmandu. The personal hatred between Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, another leading figure in the party, is widely known, and their differences will only deepen once the group faces the critical issue of disarming and merging with the Nepalese army in exchange for political representation. By reopening these fissures, India can work with the Nepalese government to divide the Maoist movement and undercut its ability to deadlock the entire country through blockades and attacks.

And the Maoists may not be the only ones suffering from internal divisions. It is questionable whether the unprecedented unity of Nepal's political parties will succeed in holding out for much longer without the king as a common enemy. Moreover, the political parties want guarantees from India that they will not come under attack from the Maoists down the road. As the parties proceed with their own political agenda, their alliance with the Maoists is likely to come under serious duress when the Maoists begin to feel like they are being sidelined out of the political process. With King Gyanendra slowly retreating into the background, the difficulties in maintaining the alliance among the seven parties and weakening the Maoist movement will only add to New Delhi's task list for maintaining order in its own backyard.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sri Lanka

Known for its tenacity and grit, the LTTE is now at the cross roads. It fought fierce conventional battles, captured major army bases and significant swathes of land, and attacked Colombo in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This affected investor confidence, tourism and forced the incoming Government to enter into a Norwegian mediated cease-fire with the LTTE in February 2002. The cease-fire is now at breaking point.

While the LTTE retains the ability to wreak havoc with the Sri Lankan economy, it has few real options. For one, it has been increasingly sidelined in the international arena given its human rights record and terrorism. Australia, Britain Canada, India and the United States have designated it a terrorist outfit. The European Union is likely to ban it should the current cease-fire be broken. This restricts their international fund raising capability. Financing constraints would prevent a return to prolonged conventional warfare.

The fighting capacity of the LTTE that once allowed it to take on the Sri Lankan military might now be dented. Reports suggest that Indian intelligence had instigated the revolt of Eastern/Batticaloa LTTE cadre led by Karuna in March, 2004. The Northern command of the LTTE crushed this but in doing so lost one of its most capable strategists. Karuna defected to the military. The LTTE has a Northern/Jaffna leadership that controls the sea tigers, the incipient air tigers, its intelligence, its finances, its international procurement and its mercantile shipping. However, many of the foot soldiers hailed from the poverty stricken East. While the LTTE has not lost the East, its ability to recruit fighters there has been dented. It now faces a shortfall in cadre.

The close ties forged between Karuna and the Army under Indian sponsorship resulted in snipper attacks on LTTE leaders. The LTTE retaliated with claymore mine attacks on army convoys. The military responded with the murder of Tamil civilians. Last afternoon's attempted assassination of the hard-line Army Commander deep within the fortified Army Headquarters in Colombo and the subsequent Sri Lankan Airforce bombardment of Tamil villages in Trincomalee indicate that we might be in for turbulent weather.

The LTTE retains the capacity to attack Colombo and destroy investor confidence. Any terrorist attack in Colombo would send the economy into a tailspin. Even if there were to be a return to conventional war due to trigger-happy hard-liners on either side, both parties realize that they lack the means to sustain it. There would be the inevitable peace talks after a swift territorial redemarcation of areas controlled by either side. As in the past 25 years, Sri Lanka remains in a stable equilibrium of continued uncertainty.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nepal At The Edge

Nepal just might have been rescued from the brink as King Gyanendra announced at 11.30 PM yesterday that he had reinstated the lower house of parliament. He apologized for those killed in three weeks of pro-democracy protests which he went on to describe as a "people's movement". The monarch had transferred executive power to the political parties last Friday. The Seven Party Alliance of Parties dismissed that as insufficient demanding the restoration of the legislature. He has now done so. Pressure from the European Union and the United States in light of the intensifying protests helps explain the King's about turn.

By contrast, the Indian role has not been altogether benign. The Indian Foreign Secretary - Shyam Saran- announced over the weekend that India had abandoned its "Twin Pillar" policy of supporting a multi-party democracy and a constitutional monarchy. He added that it was for the Nepalese to define their political system. New Delhi appears to have had a tacit understanding with the Maoists.

The Maoists might still consolidate their hold in the emerging political vacuum. To quote, United States Ambassador Moriarty "My real concern is that the successor Government may end up being dominated by the Maoists. The Maoists under the current situation swing a lot of weight because they have the weapons and the parties do not".

Others confirm the not so hidden clout of the Maoists. Maoist cadre had directed the street demonstrations in Kathmandu and provided the manpower. The SPA had no real control on the streets. A significant number of the protestors appeared to be from Maoist controlled rural areas.

Hundreds of Maoists had stormed the Nepalese town of Chautara 75 miles east of Kathmandu attacking the local hospital, the post office, the education office and administrative buildings yesterday. The Maoist insurgents destroyed the communications network. Military reinforcements had to be airlifted in. Kathmandu was under curfew for five days. Protestors had already occupied the 17 mile long ring road. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) had announced plans to march to the royal palace today to declare a "Democratic Republic". Let's hope that the politics of reconciliation now sets in.

The Maoists control one third the territory of Nepal. They have set up local government authorities. They have built a 55 mile road through the mountains that might eventually link up with China. The Maoists collect taxes. They run collective farms, riverine fisheries and livestock. They retain links with Indian Maoist rebels in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telangana.

New Delhi blundered with its sponsorship of Tamil militant groups in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. It has no coherent policy in Nepal either. The current deal in Nepal owed more to European and United States proactiveness than to any initiative in New Delhi. It might be intended to contain the Maoist insurrection and ensure political space for Nepal's moderates. Let's hope that the restoration of democracy last night leads to peace and economic growth in the Shangri-La that once was Nepal. We need to watch events today to see whether this would indeed materialize.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Chinese civil nuclear plans

The United States Congress passed legislation in 1985 to permit full civil nuclear cooperation with China. The Congress approved this notwithstanding official testimony that China had then been covertly assisting Pakistan's nuclear program. China became a NPT signatory in 1992. The Sino-American civilian nuclear deal was delayed by 13 years. It took effect in 1998 after the Clinton administration lifted the sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the Tiananmen protests.

Reuters had an interesting blurb on the subject datelined April 21, 2006. Chinese leaders view nuclear energy as a counter to increased reliance on hydrocarbon imports, not to mention the environmental pollution in Chinese urban areas. China intends to quadruple civil nuclear capacity by 2020. And yet, this would only provide 4% of Chinese energy needs. Opponents warn of challenges that include waste disposal and the steep cost of new generators.

China had opted to rely on a mix of American, Canadian, French and Russian civil nuclear technology designs. The objective was to keep China up to speed on the latest development in the technology realm in different countries. However, the nine nuclear reactors currently in operation barely contribute 2% of the nation's power today. This is a mere one-eight of the global average. The plan is to raise this to 4% over the next 15 years by building 30 new reactors. Many doubt whether this target could be met given the difficulty in constructing 2 major reactors each year. The reliance on fossil fuels is thus set to remain.

The Chinese are moreover pursuing designs that use less uranium as international uranium prices have tripled since 2004. The financial challenge ahead is daunting and China hopes to tap into the power utilities listed in its share market to help fund the nuclear expansion. This would be an interesting development to watch.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

China Hu?

Even as President Bush greets President Hu at the White House, Washington's elite wake up to Jim Hoagland's essay reminding them of Bush's Indian Ally -- our visionary Prime Minister.

Great timing indeed.

Supporting Democracy in Nepal

This blog has long supported the idea of India being the enforcer of political modernity in our neighborhood.

This means recognizing the simple fact that India's emergence as a superpower is constrained by our (politically and literally) bombed out neighborhood. Also, that our long term interests are in alignment with those of the people in our neighboring countries -- not with their frequently autocratic rulers.

Therefore, in Nepal, we should be squarely with the people demanding democracy. The King's fortune has run out and there is little gain in including him in the next chapter of Nepal. It's time for him to retire in exile.

What we need to do is to find a way of sidelining the Maoists. This is possible if India can persuade the Nepalese Army to join the democracy bandwagon -- and the political parties to accept an India-backed Nepalese Republic in exchange for their pledge to crush the Maoists.

Hopefully, this is precisely the prescription Shyam Saran and Karan Singh have taken to Kathmandu.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jawahar Lal Nehru: Random Thoughts

These thoughts on Jawahar Lal Nehru are based on personal reflection. I do not refer to any one publication. Many would disagree with me. Moreover, I am not a historian. Let me begin by mentioning that I am not awe-struck by Nehru. India would have been a stronger, more prosperous and enlightened country had he not governed for so long. And yet, Jawahar had his strengths and leadership.

The unstinted support of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on two crucial occasions explains Nehru's rise in the political firmament. The Indian National Congress had three leaders of towering national stature in 1920 - Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Mohamed Ali Jinnah and Subhas Chandra Bose. Gandhi sponsored Jawahar due to the close links he had with Jawahar's father. Jinnah left the Indian National Congress although he retained ties with the party until 1929. Subhas Chandra Bose veered in his direction. Gandhi nominated the 40 year old Jawahar as President of the Indian National Congress in 1929. The Indian National Congress had its presidential elections once again in 1946. Several state units nominated Patel for the position. Gandhi asked Patel to withdraw from the race to allow Nehru to run uncontested. This paved the way for Jawahar to become independent India's first Prime Minister in 1947.

Nehru's legacy of constitutionalism and the rule of law was profound. This Kashmiri barrister educated at Harrow, Cambridge and Inner Temple nurtured the institutions of liberal democracy in India. He ensured the resilience of the judiciary, the legislature, the federal structure, the cabinet and the civil service. India today is one of three countries in the Asian continent to have had such institutional continuity - the other two being Israel and Japan.

Nehru had a contradictory persona which makes one grudgingly respect him. Highly westernized, he made the transition to a Gandhian nationalist. An authentic liberal, he supported socialism. He opposed his father in demanding a complete break with Britain. His nationalism compelled the colonial authorities to imprison him several times in contrast to Ambedkar and Jinnah. Nehru's international outlook in the pre-independence era revealed a cosmopolitan world view. The support for the Irish Freedom Struggle, the passionate endorsement of the republican cause in the Spanish civil war and support for Iraqi nationalism in light of the incessant aerial bombing by the Royal Air Force was noteworthy.

And yet, Jawahar was a flawed leader. While Sardar Vallabhai Patel successfully integrated the multitude of problematic princely states (such as Hyderabad, Junagadh, Manipur and Travancore) into the Indian Union, Nehru messed up the Kashmir issue. He dithered when action was called for. He imposed conditions on the Kashmir Maharajah when Pakistani irregulars were ready to invade in 1947. Pakistan captured large tracts of land. Indian troops fought back and were poised to retake the strategic terrain of Baltistan and Gilgit when Pakistan called for a cease-fire. Nehru accepted the offer when his military was on the winning streak. He referred the matter to the United Nations unnecessarily internationalizing it. The issue remains unresolved to date. Indira Gandhi did her bit to recapture lost ground by retaking Kargil and Siachen in 1971 but was stopped on threat of United States intervention.

Nehru's China policy was tarnished for similar reasons. The Chinese People's Liberation Army captured Beijing in October, 1949. It moved into Tibet in 1950 and occupied Lhasa in 1951. The Tibetan administration tabled a motion at the United Nations appealing for international assistance. Nehru's delegation prevented its inclusion in the UN agenda. He withdrew the Indian garrison from Lhasa in 1950 and accepted Chinese suzerainty over 471,700 square miles of Tibet without extracting commensurate Chinese recognition of Indian claims on Kashmir.

China was not a member of the United Nations at that point. Nehru defended China in international fora while Beijing stealthily annexed 15,000 square miles of territory in Aksai Chin in 1957. India was caught unprepared. China invaded India's 32,000 square mile North East Frontier Agency in 1962 and crushed Indian resistance. Nehru helped establish the Nonaligned Movement with much ado. However, not one Non Aligned Country supported India's case vis-a-vis China. It was left to the Kennedy administration to do so.

Much has been written on Nehru's policy of socialism, centralized planning and the stifling of private initiative. India had the proverbial 2 to 3% Nehruvian rate of growth in the 1950s and 1960s. The fact that 40% of India's population continues to live on less than US$ 1 a day is an indictment on the Nehruvian vision for economic progress.

Jawahar focused on heavy industry, engineering and technology. He established the Indian Institutes of Technology. And yet he failed to build primary schools, health clinics and rural roads to educate the poor and provide decent health care in India's poverty stricken hinterland. India's record vis-a-vis literacy, infant mortality and maternal mortality was amongst the worst in the developing world. These human indicators demonstrated the failure of Nehruvian social policy. His administration had conceptualized the policy of reservations to help integrate India's scheduled castes and tribes into the national mainstream. But he did little in way of substantive investment on the ground to raise the competitiveness of the Dalit youth.

India's agricultural sector fared poorly under Nehru. Despite the anti-American rhetoric, he was dependent on American food aid. It was Mrs. Gandhi who ushered in the Green Revolution, achieved self-sufficiency in food production and turned down PL 480.

Nehru failed to introduce the uniform civil code - that ultimate test of modernity. An Indian woman's right to divorce, inherit and sue on marital grounds is constrained by the religion she is born into. Nehru fell short of the imperative of gender equity and national integration. There needs to be a level playing field applied to all Indians regardless of religion.

Jawahar alienated the likes of Ambedkar, Jayaprakash Narayan, Purushottam Das Tandon, Rajagopala Chari (rugger playing charlie) and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. India would have had a different history had Nehru not been in power for 17 years. Term limits on the lines of the United States have their value. But alas India had been introduced to the politics of dynasty! And a controversial one at that too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Via Stratfor:

In an attempt to split the SPA (seven party alliance) and Maoists, the king announced in a Hindu New Year address April 13 that he would call national elections and consult with the country's political parties. The promise of elections was viewed as a complete farce, and the opposition's calls to replace the monarchy with a constitutional assembly only grew louder.

Politically, however, India has no easy options. Supporting King Gyanendra -- an autocratic monarch who has lost practically all standing with his people -- would be futile, but New Delhi also cannot afford to sit by and allow the monarchy to be overthrown, since that would provide an opening for the Maoists to take power. Since the king disbanded parliament, India has been taking its time to formulate a strategy on Nepal, but it's now clear the clock is ticking and spillover is possible. Recognizing that Nepal's fate depends primarily on the mindset of its generals, India's attention likely is fixated now on the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). Senior army officials feel that New Delhi, formerly one of its chief suppliers, ditched the army when it cut off military aid to Nepal following the royal takeover. If New Delhi and the RNA can make peace, India might begin to draw the SPA away from the Maoists with the promise of RNA backing to topple the monarchy.

Though a military coup is likely in the cards for Nepal, such political maneuverings by the SPA and India would need time to develop. Meanwhile, the dark cloud of emergency rule hovers.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Heartburn In Pakistan

If the Indo-US deal is so terrible for India, how come there is such stupefied heartburn among Pakistani commentators?

Daily Times' Khalid Hasan is even reduced to parroting the lunatic Vladimir Zhirinovsky's vile outbursts against Condi Rice. Lost your own tongue, Khalid?!!!

Nepal Update

The Nepalese monarchy is in deep crisis. The Maoists have positioned themselves to be the lead political actor in the weeks to come. New Delhi lacks a policy to address this. Nepal is adjacent to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The spectre of a Maoist corridor between Nepal and Telangana is real.

The Maoist insurrection started in 1996. 13,000 have died since then. King Gyanendra dissolved the legislature in 2002. He suspended the All Party Government in 2005. The situation has since worsened. As the Chennai-based "Hindu Newspaper" put it, "A novice in politics and statecraft, Gyanendra is all tactics and no strategy". It is clear that he needs to either hold free and fair elections or abdicate.

The Seven Party Alliance of Political Parties (SPA) had signed a political compact with the Maoists in November, 2005 and March, 2006 to (i) initiate a nationwide agitation against the autocratic monarchy; (ii) restore parliament; (iii) form an interim administration: (iv) conduct elections for a constituent assembly; (v) and initiate the process of constitutional reform. The goal is "Loktantra". The word could either mean "people's rule" or outright "republic". The Seven Party Alliance is led by the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist-Leninist.

India helped negotiate the deal. This is surprising given the extent of anti-Indian sentiment held by the Maoists. India until recently had the "twin pillar strategy" that it believed held the key to stability in Nepal. The "twin pillar" entailed the co-existence of a constitutional monarchy and elected government.

The United States on the other hand had pressured the SPA not to enter into the agreement with the Maoists. Washington expressed concerns that the deal had failed to commit the Maoists to abandon the campaign of violence. Donald Camp, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, stated in the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific at the House of Representative Committee on International Relations that the United States had only two goals in Nepal i.e. the (i) restoration of multi-party democracy; and (ii) prevention of the Maoist take over. This vision is in New Delhi's interest given the anti-India record of the Maoists, not to mention the Maoist campaign of murder, torture, bombings, extortion, kidnapping and the recruitment of child soldiers. It is in India's interest to coordinate with the United States in this instance.

King Gyanendra is increasingly unpopular. The nationwide agitation has had its effect. The King held Municipal elections on February 8, 2006 to test the waters. The call for a boycott by the SPA and the Maoists succeeded with only 20% of the electorate casting their vote. Only 15% of the seats were contested while 54% of the seats had no candidates. The Maoist campaign of terror and high levels of popular disaffection explain this.

The latest civil uprising is now in its tenth day. There is now grass roots support for the anti- government demonstrations. The elderly, women and children defied nationwide curfews to come out to the streets and protest. They clashed with security personnel. Students, teachers, professionals, doctors and civil servants joined them to barricade roads, burn tires and chase away the police. Lawyers took to the street. Journalists did the same. There are increasing calls for the monarch to be exiled.

Nepal is a landlocked country. It is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Kathmandu is heavily dependent on India for trade, transit and riparian rights. It is heterogenous with numerous tribes, ethnic groups and dialects. The Caste Hill Hindu Elite that comprise 31% of the population is dominant. The need for a smooth transition in Kathmandu from an inept autocracy to a representative democracy is in India's interest. The days of the monarchy appear numbered unless the King were to dramatically shift gears. A Maoist takeover is therefore possible in the upcoming political vacuum. This is not in India's national security. The deafening silence in New Delhi is therefore perplexing.

Friday, April 14, 2006


The perennial Indian obsession with reservations is back and, unsurprisingly, generating a great deal of heat.

Personally, we are strongly opposed to quotas and reservations -- these are highly inefficient and profoundly immoral means of trying to correct real and perceived inequities in our society.

Having said this, we see little value in expressing stale lament over Government's attitude on this subject. Our politics have long since fallen to the seductive and poisonous embrace of brazen populism -- this strategy is a vote-winner, hence nothing else really matters.

Frankly, what reservation opponents ought to be doing is not protesting Government's predictable senselessness, instead constructively engaging the purported beneficiaries of its myopic approach on why we think this is counterproductive.

Given our democracy and our demographics, persuasion is the only real way to win this valid battle. This long-term process will be costly -- we'll probably lose IITs, for example, as the genius factories that they used to be -- but this would be a cost worth bearing if we ultimately convince the vast majority of Indians that reservations are profoundly violent to the spirit of our equalizing constitution.

If we fail, unfortunately, so will India.

Darkness In Delhi

Via New York Times, Attack at Main Mosque in New Delhi

This joins the long list of disgraceful assaults on our places of worship -- from Akshardham to Varanasi to, now, the Jama Masjid, we've been witnessing an unrelenting assault on basic human decency.

Hopefully, all Indians will join together to condemn this latest barbarity.

And Then There Was Light

Via BBC, Natural light to reinvent bulbs

A light source that could put the traditional light bulb in the shade has been invented by US scientists.

The organic light-emitting diode (OLED) emits a brilliant white light when attached to an electricity supply. The material, described in the journal Nature, can be printed in wafer thin sheets that could transform walls, ceilings or even furniture into lights.

The OLEDs do not heat up like today's light bulbs and so are far more energy efficient and should last longer. They also produce a light that is more akin to natural daylight than traditional bulbs.

Cool! Bye, Bye, bleeping tubelights!!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nuclear Deal - Rejoinder

This blogger is astonished by the intense negativity in the linked post.

The criticism of the Indo-US nuclear deal has become rather personal -- brazenly accusing Dr. Singh of selling out India's security interests. Sample this from the linked post:

Nonetheless, the charges persist that Manmohan Singh might have traded long term national security for immediate commercial benefit.

First, if such an ugly and personal charge is to be made, why not make it directly rather than hiding behind the construct "charges persist".

Second, to cite Yashwant Sinha and Vajpayee ji as voices of dissent here is laughable -- these folks were pretty close to making a similar deal themselves, then suffered an electoral reverse. Now, their protestations sound like "sour grapes". Afterall, what's Vajpayee ji's legacy? Incompetence in Gujarat, cowardice in Kandahar, the irrelevance of BJP.

Debate is good. Mudslinging is not. Many issues that are being raised relate to steps India has not taken (e.g., agreeing to fissile material cutoff, abiding by CTBT, etc.), nor intends to take. Why then all the alarmist talk?

Nuclear deal: Addressing the domestic concerns

We respond to the comments on Pragmatic's post on Condoleeza Rice's testimony. There has been little clarity in New Delhi on the precise contours of the Indo-American nuclear deal. The ongoing US Congressional deliberations led Brahma Chellaney (here and here), Yashwant Sinha and AB Vajpayee to reopen the debate in India. Manmohan Singh had failed to provide sufficient detail to the Lok Sabha. He now needs to answer the concerns raised in light of US Congressional deliberations.

Condoleeza Rice indicated that the Bush administration will push for a South Asia-wide moratorium on the production of fissile material. China rejected the draft Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and so did the United States. A formal regional cap will compromise Indian nuclear options vis-à-vis China. Critics counter that India’s interest will be affected once Chinese nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles start lurking in Indian waters. Furthermore, the United States Congress plans to insert riders into the deal mandating India not to test nuclear weapons. The United States Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Washington therefore has no right to enforce it upon India just as it keeps sub-critical tests to further perfect its large arsenal. Some in the US Senate like Sen. Sarbenes propose that India enter into an Additional Protocol with the IAEA before the Indo-American deal is made effective.

A clause on the Congressional resolution states that “A determination under subsection (b) shall not be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of enactment of this Act.” The pro-deal advocates say that India has in any event announced a moratorium on nuclear tests. The opponents stress the need for options should China or Pakistan test a weapon overtly or covertly. In any case, it should be up to India to retain the flexibility whether to respond with further tests or not. This should be a national decision, not an international obligation.

American sanctions will then be inevitable since a non-P5 country testing a nuclear device will not be eligible for trade in civil nuclear, weapons and high-technology items in keeping with the US Arms Export Control Act and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. This has happened before when the US stopped fuel supplies to the Generic Electric built Tarapur plant when India tested a weapon in 1974. The present amendment to the 1954 Atomic Energy Act makes this explicit with respect to India. The Government of India should explain the ramifications of possible US sanctions and the constraints this would pose. There needs to be a public debate on the issue.

India might still be guaranteed fuel through other Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) members. This was reiterated by no less than US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. Nevertheless, India should lobby hard to obtain full membership with the NSG to ensure sanction free supplies - like our earlier post on getting Uranium from South Africa, Niger or Brazil. Other NSG heavyweights like France and Russia will have to be lured with the prospects of buying reactors from their countries. These countries will then not antagonize India for fear of forgoing a commercial nuclear deal.

Another issue is the nature of safeguards and the IAEA Additional Protocol. Obviously, India will not agree to an intrusive full scope safeguards which is applied for non-Nuclear Weapons State (NNWS)/NPT signatories. It just has to prove that none of the fuel from the civil reactors receiving foreign fuel/assistance ends up in its military program. This is still more stringent than the free pass given to NWS like China despite their massive proliferation activities. The United States in fact agreed to sell Westinghouse reactors to China with technology transfer to prevent Russian or French export firms from entering into the lucrative Chinese market. American business interests reigned supreme in China’s instance. India conversely is being set against more stringent standards.

Critics allege that India will not be recognized as a formal nuclear power. India will not get open access to natural Uranium supply. It will only be able to import externally pre-determined amounts and that too under international supervision. Advocates claim that the deal would address India’s energy needs in a crucial period of economic take-off. India is poised to grow at maximum speed for which access to cheap energy is vital – nuclear included. They add that the current nuclear deal is a stop-gap arrangement (till the Thorium cycle takes over) to make sure that Indian economic growth is not constrained.

Nonetheless, the charges persist that Manmohan Singh might have traded long term national security for immediate commercial benefit. India would replace its dependence on international hydrocarbon reserves bought and sold in the international market with a dependence on the NSG. The international price of coal has continued to drop in the past 20 years. The price of Uranium has increased in the last 18 months.

The United States clearly benefits from the deal. For one it caps India’s strategic options. Condoleeza Rice also revealed in a recent op-ed that India had agreed to import 8 nuclear reactors by 2012, at least some of which were to be from the United States. Brahma Chellaney writes that each 1,000 MW reactor would cost US$ 1.8 billion which is 23 times the annual budget of the entire Indian nuclear power industry! The deal would revive the US nuclear power industry which has not received a single reactor order in more than 30 years.

There are no easy answers to such questions of national importance. However, a debate is needed in the public domain to ensure that the concerns raised are effectively addressed. India’s national security interests demand that.

Co-Authored by Jaffna and Cynical Nerd


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