Left to themselves, the leaders of the Left would have certainly found nothing unsavoury in the points made by former armed forces chiefs, bureaucrats and scientists in an open letter to Members of Parliament (reprinted on this page today). As the letter soberly states, the more serious critics of the India-US civilian nuclear deal — and it is difficult to include the BJP and naysayers within the UPA in this category — are “no less concerned about [India’s] security interests” than the deal’s champions. But in a way, Left leaders are not left to themselves while measuring the pros and cons of the deal. The towering shadow of an ideology, hardwired against ‘doing business’ with the United States, looms above our communist leaders. The fact that India gains tremendously from this deal — in the energy sector, according to its security considerations, and in its standing in the international community — has been swamped by fears of being beholden to a ‘hegemon’.
Such fears are understandable. After all, with decades of de jure non-alignment, seeing India as a confident front-player in geopolitics, can be difficult. But the India that we are in today is significantly different from the one in which we found ourselves yesterday. Surely, for a pluralistic lot in a thriving, growing democracy, standing up to the suspicious behaviour of Big Powers should not worry us so much any more? But it is practicality that drives the nuclear deal. The Nuclear Suppliers’ Group includes ‘old friends’ like Russia. The Indo-US deal does not curtail New Delhi from firming up bilaterals with Moscow. In fact, it only enhances such possibilities. And the truth be told, Moscow’s foot-dragging with New Delhi on the nuclear technology front seems very much to be connected with India’s own foot-dragging on the deal. What holds true for Russia, holds true for France, Germany and the other NSG members.
As the experts have stated in the letter, there is no inherent cap on nuclear testing in the deal, as there is no cap even ‘outside’ the deal, only consequences. The Left has indelibly left its mark on the nuclear deal debate. Surely, it can now take a decision that would favour the welfare of the nation. Let the portal of nuclear technology finally open. The Left can reassure us that it will be guarding the posts.