INSAF Bulletin has editorially supported the deal since it was proposed based on a basic, rational, technical judgment; for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with climate change and the environment, nuclear electric generation has a role to play in India’s energy future.
In a recent article in EPW Vol. 43, August 2-8, 2008 on the nuclear deal, the columnist Jawid Laiq wrote:
“…the political energies of our entire parliamentary spectrum of parties have been furiously concentrated for or against the deal. Our media has played a stellar role in turning the deal into the most entertaining game show in the country, pushing vital national…issues into the background…Both sides [i.e. opponents and proponents] have inflated the importance of the nuclear balloon far beyond any rational calculus and reduced the deal to a simplistic, black-and-white issue, leaving out all its complex shades of gray.”
INSAF Bulletin has editorially supported the deal since it was proposed based on a basic, rational, technical judgment; for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with climate change and the environment, nuclear electric generation has a role to play in India’s energy future. These reasons will become progressively more important over the next 30-50 years, the usual time horizon for analyzing energy policies and plans that involve investments with long-gestation periods. Entry into the international nuclear market for fuel and technology, from which India has been essentially barred ever since Pokhran 1, is necessary if nuclear power, currently a mere 3% of electric capacity, is to play a more significant role. The deal has provided one essential pathway for India to enter into international nuclear commerce.
The opponents of the deal range from the parliamentary right-wing and left-wing parties, strangely united by their fear that the deal will restrict India’s “options” to carry out more nuclear bomb tests, to small but zealous and vocal anti-nuclear advocates for whom anything “nuclear”, even if it only involves electricity generation, is akin to what Sin is to a religious believer. The proponents of the deal in India and their zealous supporters amongst some of the NRI business community have similarly hyped the deal as a panacea to all of India’s problems, which it manifestly is not.
Lost in this debate, which continues to erupt even after the Nuclear Suppliers Group approved the deal, has been any notion of a “rational calculus” of its pros and cons, not to speak of its relative importance in the panoply of issues confronting India and South Asia today. For instance, the fate of the text of the deal in the U.S. Congress is uncertain; the many amendments proposed appear to run counter to the assurances provided earlier in the Indian Parliament by the Prime Minister. These could be discussed within a rational accounting of their benefits and costs, as has been attempted by the Hindu newspaper’s columnist, Siddharth Varadarajan. In fact it could be argued that given that the NSG has approved the deal and given that France and Russia are anxious to supply the Indian market, it may be in India’s best interests not to sign anything that passes the U.S. Congress but wait if they make a better offer under pressure from their own domestic constituency of U.S. nuclear suppliers. As De Gaulle once famously remarked: “France has no permanent friends; it has only permanent interests.” The deal should be viewed for what it is: a commercial arrangement that brings with it certain advantages and has certain costs. Those costs are nothing as dramatic as the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s claim that they would reduce India to a “slave” of the U.S. Such talk on behalf of the largest left party in Indian politics is more than absurd; it is tragic, when one expects the left to be instead at the forefront of the secular opposition to the mayhem being created by the most belligerent elements of Hindutva from Kashmir to Karnataka.