Ahead of the crucial debate on the Indo-US nuclear agreement in Parliament’s winter session starting Thursday, several top scientists, former armed services chiefs, high-ranking diplomats and civil servants have issued an appeal to MPs from all political parties asking them to support the deal. In an open letter, they have asserted that the deal would help remove “crippling constraints” imposed by the international community on India’s nuclear programme.
They have also strongly expressed the opinion that the 123 Agreement does not negate India’s sovereign right to carry out nuclear tests or curtail its freedom to produce strategic weapons. Among the signatories to the letter are former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman M.R. Srinivasan, former Space Commission Chairman Kasturirangan, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, retired army chiefs V.N. Sharma and V.P. Malik, former naval chiefs Ram Tehliani and Madhvendra Singh as well as former air chief O.P. Mehra.
“Nobody can claim that the deal is perfect or gives us everything we would have liked.But all international agreements require movement away from one’s first preferences.All too often in our history we have suffered by insisting on the ideally desirable and rejecting what is attainable. The key questions are: can we do better without the agreement or can we get a better one?” they asked.
Maintaining that the answer to the second question was no, the letter sought to emphasise that the agreement had given India as much as it had because of “a most particular combination of circumstances” that could hardly come again.There were forces at work internationally that would only complicate our position , they cautioned citing growing pressure for a comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT ) or growing potential of American opponents of the agreement.
The letter pointed out that what was formally a bilateral agreement between India and US was actually the basis for agreement with the international community which has imposed constraints not only on our nuclear programme but, by withholding dual use technologies, on a wide range of possibilities for improving the lives of people.The country could not, for instance, get Russian reactors without going ahead with the Indo-US agreement, it stated.
The signatories observed that denial of high technologies, particularly those related to security needs, posed a major obstacle in India emerging as one of the most significant influences in shaping the world.