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A very energetic myth indeed

It is not simply a matter of how ‘Hyde’ or ‘123’ are interpreted. It is also a question of when they are invoked, writes Manvendra Singh.

india Updated: Jul 23, 2008 21:25 IST

Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee doesn’t suffer fools; and he is not a lawyer. So he speaks with a straightness, without having to twist words to represent a point. And as Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, he packs a lot of experience in office. In his intervention during Tuesday’s confidence motion, Mukherjee spoke about the “interpretation of the Hyde Act” and gave an overview of India’s energy situation. He didn’t fail to mention France, where nuclear power forms the major portion of its energy basket.

Minister of Finance P Chidambaram is also known to not suffer fools; and he is a lawyer. His elegant speech was inundated with facts and figures about growth and what else is required to make India grow more. And as a lawyer he played his cards over ‘Hyde’ and ‘123’ in the truest manner of his trade. He, too, spoke about energy, but giving the example of China, what it has done, and is planning to do so as to secure its energy future.

A result of his cross-country rides across Bharat, Rahul Gandhi took India into the homes of two women whose names will reverberate for some time to come. The essence of his sincerity was plain. And like his senior colleagues, he also used the argument of energy. It wasn’t ‘GDP’ that he pushed, but changing the lives of Bharat. These three speakers captured the core of the UPA government’s argument in selling the Indo-US deal.

But the deal is about more than just energy. Essentially what is being sought is a reworking of India’s foreign policy, its posture and the creation of a new economic theory; not just policy. In a truly ironic reworking of history, India will seek waivers, legal and technical, from a cartel set up 30 odd years ago to thwart New Delhi’s nuclear and global ambitions. And to see how the vision of the NSG squares with that of India, it is best to refer to the recent G8 political statement as that collective represents the cartel’s policy ambitions: “Look forward to working with India, the IAEA, NSG and other partners to advance India’s non-proliferation commitments and progress… meet its growing energy needs in a manner that enhances and reinforces the global non-proliferation regime.” Whatever the divisions in India’s polity, it has been united in railing against the discriminatory nature of the international non-proliferation regime. So in our supposed quest for energy, what we are also doing is to subscribe to a system that is abhorrent.

It is not simply a matter of how ‘Hyde’ or ‘123’ are interpreted. It is also a question of when they are invoked. In 1990, US concerns changed and the Pressler amendment was invoked on Pakistan. Can India be held hostage to Washington when it is bad enough being held captive by Lucknow’s fancies?

There are no transparent figures for the costs involved in implementing the energy aspect of this deal. With the target being 40,000MW, estimates begin at Rs 300,000 crore. But in the popular obsession with oil, what has remained unreported is that the price of uranium has gone up four times than crude in the same period. There is a cartel of uranium suppliers appearing, and they are in a position to toss out all planning and costing.

The only fuels that have no such prices are renewables. Government figures show that without solar energy, India’s renewable energy potential is above 1,200,000 MW. Solar energy alone is available at 20 MW per sq/km. The future lies in tapping this resource. At today’s technology levels the costing would be less than a fourth of the nuclear deal.

The new economic theory believes that India can be energy secure by having an international agreement that is entirely import-driven. How imports can enhance India’s energy security is a theory that defies reason. So much for Gandhiji’s idea of ‘swadeshi’.

Manvendra Singh is BJP Lok Sabha MP representing Barmer, Rajasthan