Saturday, 19 November 2005

Ekalavya’s Thumb (The Asian Age)

By M.D. Nalapat

The Mahabharata has the story of Ekalavya, a youth who learnt archery on his
own, but accepted Dronacharya as his guru. When the teacher saw that this
lowborn youth was far more proficient than Prince Arjuna, he demanded
Ekalavya’s thumb as his dakshina, thus cutting away the competition. In the
assembly of nuclear weapons states, India the underdog has consistently been
pressured by the United States, China and the EU to cut off its nuclear
thumb. Nine Prime Ministers have refused to succumb to that demand.

Now the tenth — Manmohan Singh — is on course to emasculate nuclear India,
through the signing of an agreement with President George W. Bush of the US
that, if implemented, will reduce India’s indigenous nuclear programme, both
civilian and military, to a state of dependency on the goodwill of other
countries and harmlessness towards those powers that have the capability of
launching a nuclear attack on the billion-plus population of a country that
Manmohan Singh has sworn on oath to defend.

Since the Singh-Bush nuclear agreement was arrived at on July 18 this year,
there has been a steady patter of articles from experts, almost all
laudatory. The writers are all honourable men, and with very few exceptions,
they have spent years or at the least several months in the US imbibing the
strategic thought of that remarkable country. It must have been painful to
accept the charity of foundations and institutes, and to always be aware
that India is a country much less powerful and very, very much poorer than
the US.

Small wonder that any sign, even a symbolic one, of recognition gets prized.
No surprise that the very act of stroking becomes a desirable reward in
itself. India is a Third World country with a middle class possessing First
World intellects, the owners of which go about with angst in their souls, an
ache relieved only by pats on the head, by promises that they will — at last
— be treated as serious people.

As one of the two Burnses (both US under-secretaries of state), who spoke at
a recent hearing of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, simpered
smugly (aware that his words would fall as honey on the respect-thirsty
strategic experts whose op-ed pieces are so necessary for Manmohan Singh to
sell his sell-out to the Indian people), India has at last reached, if not
adulthood, then teenager status by signing the nuclear agreement.

Once the country’s nuclear programme has been completely starved and gutted
in a decade, the same breed of officials will declare the country grown up.
The naked emperor would be humoured as though he had on attire more
substantial than skin.

According to domestic backers of the July 18 agreement, the deal “proved”
that the US had put the Cold War behind it, and graciously condescended to
overlook such peccadilloes as the Non Aligned Movement, the axis with the
USSR and Nehruvian socialism.

>From now onwards, realism and self-interest would lie at the core of India’s
foreign policy, not an Alice in Wonderland capacity to act as though the
imaginary were in fact the verities, a tendency to ignore the real in the
making of policy. Post 7/18, New Delhi would be treated on par with London,
Paris, Moscow, Beijing and of course Washington in the nuclear field,
although the change would be informal, there would be a live-in relationship
rather than a marriage, but there would be children, and these would have
full rights of inheritance.

In other words, India would have the same status as the P-5 in that little
matter of the Additional Protocol of the IAEA. There would be no hurdles on
its right to extract fuel rods from civilian reactors for military use, for
example. Meanwhile, Uncle Bush would make sure that the country’s nuclear
power industry was enabled to import technology and materiel as freely as
India’s rival in Asia, China, although Dubya drew the line when it came to
New Delhi’s exporting nuclear technology with the abandon of Beijing.

Indeed, exports were to be totally banned. But that, the experts assured us,
was hardly needed, for the country would need to keep for itself all the
technology it had developed, together with the bounty supplied by the
beneficence of Washington. Soon, energy shortages would become a
rapidly-lessening memory as the US-boosted Indian nuclear power sector
revved up.

In the next year, Manmohan Singh would stand alongside Tony Blair, Jacques
Chirac and Angela Merkel as one of the international Big Boys, so what if at
home he was merely a servitor (although one shown every external sign of
deference) of the Nehru family? As Burns 1 (or it may be Burns 2) lisped,
India was growing up. Hooray!

Alas for the cheerleaders, that was the only remark from the two Burnses
that could — by a wild flight of the imagination — be termed as favourable
to India. One after the other, they enumerated to the members of the US
Senate what Manmohan Singh had committed his country to do on July 18,
2005:l India would not have the same rights under the Additional Protocol as
those given to the P-5. Indeed, it would be Washington — acting through the
IAEA in Vienna — that would decide on which of this country’s nuclear
facilities was to be placed under fullscope safeguards.

Once having handed over its nuclear jewels to the very powers that had been
seeking to gut India’s nuclear programme for four decades, not to speak of
the clueless Manmohan Singh, no future government in New Delhi would have
the authority to snatch back these facilities from the slow asphyxiation
that fullscope safeguards would condemn them to. Of course, there would not
be any such condition imposed on the US.

If Dubya or any of his successors decided that even the peanut concessions
offered to New Delhi by the July agreement needed to be cut off, they could
walk away from the deal and leave India with its commitments intact, as any
safeguards set in place would need to be “in perpetuity.” That those close
allies, the US Arms Control lobby and China regard even the Bush-Singh deal
as overly generous to India shows the malevolence with which the two view
this country’s anaemic but persistent efforts to create for itself a
defensive capability against nuclear attack.

l India would have to achieve in practice what has never before been
attempted by any other power, and which is regarded as financially ruinous
and technologically impractical by those who have a better knowledge of
nuclear physics than two individuals who worked — overtly and otherwise —
both on the details of the nuclear agreement as well as on its selling to
the Prime Minister: foreign secretary Shyam Saran and Planning Commission
deputy chairman M.S. Ahluwalia.

As the US side would need to make its peanut deliveries only after this task
had been carried out to the satisfaction of Senator Biden’s friends in the
Arms Control lobby, clearly anybody who held his or her breath waiting for
this assistance would choke to death, the same fate envisaged for the
indigenous Indian nuclear programme. Even assuming that the impossible task
of civil-military separation were carried out by India, Washington would be
obligated to provide only “purely civilian-use” technologies.

The 7/18 agreement’s wordage is clear that any future nuclear-related
cooperation between the US and India would completely exclude any
cooperation that could in any way assist the development or production of
nuclear weapons. In view of the dual-use nature of much atomic equipment and
process, this would mean that bathtubs or at the most chemical toilets would
be the only big items to come in as reward for destroying the country’s
nuclear industry.

* In order to earn the heavenly privilege of clasping hands with Merkel,
Chirac and Blair (although as the fraction in the proposed
five-and-a-twentieth schema set out on July 18) as they waited for Bush to
emerge from his trout fishing, Manmohan Singh would have to ensure that
India unfailingly tagged along behind the US and the EU as the two went
about rewarding India’s tormentors (e.g. Pakistan) and tormenting New
Delhi’s allies (e.g. Iran).

As in the case of its own nuclear facilities, it would not be India that
would decide who its friends were and who foes, but the White House. As a
country with a stake one-twentieth of that enjoyed by Paris and London,
could not realistically be described as a US ally or even a quasi-ally,
India would revert to historical form and once again become a dependency,
certainly in the fields of foreign policy and nuclear technology.

* The increased costs of the (almost certainly futile) efforts at separating
civilian from military facilities and the blockages created by such a
differentiation would slow down and finally kill off the country’s
thorium-based fast breeder reactor programme. This would remove the best
chance India has got of ensuring a reliable and reasonably-priced energy
source within a decade.

7/18 would also gut the country’s R&D in the nuclear field thanks to the
IAEA-imposed barriers on almost all the country’s present nuclear assets.
This would rapidly make India as dependent on foreign technology and
assistance in the nuclear field as Brazil, South Africa or Taiwan. Whether
Manmohan Singh’s successors will remain invited to western summits after the
objective of destroying India’s indigenous nuclear programme is achieved is
an open question. Perhaps they would, for comic relief.

* India would also have to immediately and fully cap its fissile material
capability, thus becoming the first country in the world to — in effect —
accede to the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty. This would deal the final
blow to its military capability, which would anyway have become
significantly attenuated by the drastic separation of civilian from military
facilities, and the stopping of any help of the one to the other.

Any chance of putting in place a credible nuclear deterrent — even a
minuscule one, not to talk of a minimum stockpile — would evaporate. A
recitation of the extent to which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — who has
abandoned economics to Sonia Gandhi and the Communists and is these days
concentrating on foreign and security policies, about which he is amateur to
a degree dangerous to the country’s interests — would go, could go on for
much, much longer.

Suffice it to close with Iran, the country that — because of the obstruction
of US ally Pakistan — is India’s only land bridge to Central Asia, and which
is a primary source of energy supplies. Tony Blair, George W. Bush and
others responsible for the US-UK strategy in Iraq repeat endlessly that
Saddam Hussein “fooled the world” by saying that he had WMD, when in fact
the Iraqi dictator several times publicly admitted that he did not.

In the same mendacious way, the same clique claims that Iran is “in breach
of international obligations,” when the reality is that Tehran is not (thus
far) in violation of the NPT. The centrifuges imported by Tehran from
Pakistan are technically unable to produce weapons-grade uranium, a fact
known to any physics graduate. Of course, while the proliferating Pakistan
is rewarded, including very generously by Manmohan Singh, Iran is getting
readied for slaughter.

Till today, the Shia community worldwide has almost totally kept aloof from
the type of violence that has brought such a bad name to a great faith. This
may change. Shias may join Sunnis in the terrorist brigades, while Manmohan
Singh jets off to London for that delicious photo-op.

[Original link dead, can also be found on: ]

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