Their opposition is ridiculous

Published : Sep 07, 2007 00:00 IST

Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology.-V.V. KRISHNAN

Kapil Sibal, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology.-V.V. KRISHNAN

Interview with Kapil Sibal, Union Minister.

UNION Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal rubbishes the Left parties opposition to the India-United States nuclear deal as politically motivated. According to him, there are no real reasons for the Left parties to oppose the deal as all their concerns, which they had voiced in the course of the past one year, had been accommodated in the final draft. Now that the draft is out in the open, they are once again raising a hue and cry. First it was an objection to the text, but once the text has been amended to incorporate their concerns, they have an objection to the context. Their opposition to the deal is ridiculous, says Sibal. Excerpts from an interview:

The Left parties objection to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal has been well known. Why then was it that they were not taken into confidence during the course of the negotiations, especially in view of the fact that t

It is wrong to say that the Left parties were not taken into confidence. They had been kept in the loop all through the year when the negotiations were progressing. The Prime Minister himself took care that all their concerns were entirely met in the final draft.

Our negotiators actually went out of their way to force the U.S. to address the concerns they had voiced in the beginning. I can confidently claim that all their concerns have been met entirely in the final draft.

In that case, why do you think the Left parties are objecting now?

Let the Left parties answer this question. They are in a better position to do so. But to us it seems that their motives are entirely political. It is no longer the nuclear deal alone now; they are now playing their own brand of a larger political game. Shockingly, while we went out of our way to meet their concerns, they have entirely changed their position now.

Initially their objection was about the text of the deal. Now, when we have ensured that the text accommodates all their concerns, they are objecting to the context of the deal. This is not fair. Their opposition to the deal is ridiculous. Let them point out even a single line from the text of the 123 deal that they are objecting to. They have none. They are talking about other things now. Now they have brought in the Hyde Act, they are talking of joint Indo-U.S. defence exercises and such other things, which are not part of the 123 treaty.

But is it not true that the gains for India are not as huge as those for the U.S.? That once this treaty is made operational India would be under pressure from the U.S. to support its larger strategic planning across t

These are all hypothetical ghosts of a fear generated by the Left parties inherited opposition to a partnership with America and are no longer valid in the present-day political scenario. It is nothing but their traditional anti-America policy that is taking centre stage now. It is not true to say that India does not gain as much from the treaty as America. Our gains would be tremendous.

Besides things like getting access to the most modern technology and equipment in not only the energy sector but in various other related sectors, the biggest advantage for us would be to break free of the suffocating restrictions that were so far imposed on our peaceful nuclear programme. If nothing else, the gains in the energy sector alone would be huge. This will catapult Indias growth rate to unimaginable heights. And imagine, all this along with our nuclear weapons programme not being impacted in any way.

For years we have been trying to get recognition as a nuclear power and now that we have got it, the Left parties are upset. The gains to the U.S. also are immense as India is the largest market available to them and it is more trustworthy than anybody else because its political credibility is impeccable, its democratic credentials are unblemished and its economic growth is more stable and reliable. It is a partnership of mutual benefit to both India and the U.S. and that is what the Left parties are not liking. Their anti-America feeling has taken hold of them.

But is it not true that we gain merely a 4 per cent increase in energy generation? Nuclear power contributes 3 per cent of the total energy generation, and by 2020, if all projections regarding nuclear power go well, i

Even if the contribution to nuclear power generation is not all that huge, there are other massive advantages which we have listed out time and again. As for the strategic alliance with the U.S., whats wrong in that? Isnt China doing it? U.S. investment in China is much more than it is in India, their joint defence exercises are even more than what the U.S. has with India at present. Has all that made China subservient to the U.S.? How can anyone in his right senses accuse us of compromising our political sovereignty or strategic autonomy? There are innumerable instances from the past to prove our credentials. Did we not stand up to the U.S. in 1971, when Bangladesh was created? Did we not stand up to the U.S. when we first tested the nuclear bomb in 1974? Have we lost our political sovereignty by participating in the WTO [World Trade Organisation] talks? Our prime motive in reaching this treaty is the national interest and there is nothing in the treaty to suggest even remotely otherwise.

But is it not true that India has not been granted the full nuclear cycle and that there is no reprocessing right available to us? We dont have the right to reprocess spent fuel. Is it not true that the U.S. can

These are false misgivings. We have been granted the full nuclear cycle, including the reprocessing right, which even China does not have. We have the guarantee of assured fuel supply for the lifetime of our reactors, which even China does not have in their treaty. The only technology, which we do not have at present, is for the production of heavy water, but the treaty allows the U.S. President to go back to Congress for an approval.

Moreover, there is a non-hindrance clause in the treaty, which specifically bars the U.S. from hindering our other nuclear programmes, including the military programme, where the material is sourced from elsewhere. In the unlikely or extreme event of termination of the treaty, we have a one-year notice period and we also have the right to get compensation, which is not available to China. What else or what more should we demand? Even if we decide to test a nuclear bomb, for which there is no need anymore, the U.S. cannot terminate the treaty just like that because it will have to prove that there was no change in the security scenario, which will be very difficult for them to do.

This is a historic opportunity for us and we should grab it with both hands, because we will never have such an opportunity again.

But if the treaty is actually so good for us, why did the Prime Minister not try to convince the Left partners? Why did he have to give such a provocative statement, which has fuelled this political crisis now?

I cannot comment on what the Prime Minister has said, but the Left, let me assure you, has provoked him enough to make him react like this. Besides, what is there to convince them about? Their objection has nothing to do with the 123 treaty now, it is about other things, about their historic anti-America stand. It is their politics which has now overtaken the 123.

What would you like to tell the Left parties so that the crisis could be eased a bit?

Only one thing that we are long-standing partners and as secular parties we need to be together because the future lies in cooperation, not collision.

Do you think the government would fall on this issue?

No way. Im sure the Left parties will come around after the debate in Parliament. In fact, I fail to understand why the Left had to precipitate the issue like this when a debate in Parliament was lying ahead. They should have waited at least for the debate.

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