By-H.S.Hanspal, Former Member Parliament,Punjab:After 60 years of independence, the country faces the challenge of ensuring sufficient power and electricity. Nuclear energy is the most efficient, environmentally cleanest and safe source of energy.
The country has to meet demands of every village, town, city and state in a sustained and cost effective manner. Dr. Manmohan Singh government with its persistent diplomatic efforts has been successful in securing support of international community for nuclear agreement.
India’s nuclear agreement with US will give India a unique status of being recognized as a nuclear power without having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is no small achievement for India as several powerful countries, including Pakistan, are critically unhappy at India being accorded a special status. The strong opinion being voiced against the deal in leading American Newspapers which say ‘US was giving far too much to India for too little in return.
A cursory reading of the draft safeguards agreement shows that the government has duly addressed most of the concerns, knowledgeable defence and nuclear experts have expressed about the nuclear deal. The UN nuclear watchdog will not be allowed to supervise our defence nuclear facilities. If at a future date India feels the need to go ahead for a nuclear test, it will be free to do so.
So far running the civilian nuclear reactors are concerned, India will be free to buy fuel from any source. India will be at liberty to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to safeguard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India’s reactors. This will allay the fear that some countries may exert extraneous pressure on India.
The government has taken sufficient care of addressing all major concerns expressed by political parties like the CPM and the BJP while preparing and negotiating the draft agreement which will enable the IAEA to “implement safeguards in a manner designed to avoid hampering India’s economic and technological development.”
Here are the provisions in the draft agreement which bestow special status on India:
• Paragraph 5 says that the safeguards agreement will be implemented in a manner “designed to avoid hampering India’s economic or technological development” and “not to hinder or otherwise interfere with any activities involving the use by India nuclear material, non-nuclear material, equipment, components, information or technology produced, acquired or developed by India independent of this Agreement for its own purposes”. This non-hindrance clause is to ensure that India’s weapons programme is completely unaffected by this agreement.
• Paragraph 52(c) has a provision for India to make a ‘special report’ to the IAEA in case there is a disruption of operation in any of the safeguarded facilities “on account of material violation or breach of bilateral or multilateral arrangements to which India is a party”.
This reinforces the assurance of reliable and uninterrupted fuel supplies by providing for a grievance redressal mechanism in the event of a default by supplying countries.
• Paragraphs 71 to 75 recognise India’s need for maintaining a strategic reserve of fuel, a provision that is absent from every other safeguards agreement that the IAEA has with other countries. India has to keep the stockpiled fuel in a sealed storage capacity and agree not to remove it without informing the IAEA.
• Paragraphs 79 to 84 deal with India’s reprocessing rights, again a special provision made for this country. These paragraphs also make it clear that in case of reprocessing plants having both safeguarded as well as unsafeguarded nuclear material, IAEA “shall restrict its safeguards procedure to the area in which irradiated fuel is stored”.
• Paragraph 94 provides for similar arrangements in the case of enrichment plants.
Mr. Brijesh Mishra, NDA’s National Security Advisor congratulated the government on the IAEA safeguards agreement and cautioned against re-negotiating the deal and termed the agreement “very satisfactory.” Mr. Mishra said “The government had done a good job on the agreement and have my congratulations.”
Barack Obama, who is set to run for US President as the Democratic Party’s nominee has indicated that he has no problems with the deal in its present form.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh received unequivocal support from Rahul Gandhi, who said : “Deal is necessary given the need for clean energy in the future.” He particularly appreciated that the country’s strategic programme would not be affected by this agreement. Rahul Gandhi further added it would be ‘bad luck’ if UPA loses the government in the process of pursuing the deal but felt the government has to act boldly in the national interest. There is no need for the party to be defensive on this deal. Rahul Gandhi said it should be show-cased as one of the major achievements of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government.
Yet the parties opposing the deal are doing so due to their political compulsions, overlooking the national interest. Otherwise most of these opposition M.P.’s are individually in favour of the Indo-US nuclear agreement.
The decision by Sikh / Punjabi MPs should be such that others may not think about us, that the Punjabis have myopic understanding of the current reality- national or global. Or Punjabis suffer from a terrible lack of vision be it political or community specific. Sikh community in particular unlike any other religious community is a very enterprising one having global interests despite its numerical size and strength.
It is heartening to note that they are one of the advanced communities in thinking and action amongst comity of world’s communities. By elevating a Sikh Dr. Manmohan Singh to the highest post, the Congress leadership under Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has shown its unbiased and visionary approach on how to steer India’s march into future and to make it one of the super powers. What else should be expected of a political party?
Will not the Punjabi M.P’s be happy if the country becomes self sufficient in terms of energy needs of their countrymen, which exactly is the logic behind the present nuclear deal. Akalis have to do more soul-searching as they claim to be the sole champions of Sikhs in particular and Punjabis in general.
S. Parkash Singh Badal and S. Sukhbir Singh Badal would do well to listen to the voice for the future interests of their brethren and their prosperity. I would like to caution senior and junior Badal that future politics will not be confined to the geographical domain of Punjab. They should rise to the occasion as it was done when Giani Zail Singh, the first Sikh President of the country was to be elected. History will remember Badals in that case only.