India waltzes past Vienna, Bush wielded the baton
Once their viewpoint had been superseded, the Left parties and BJP should have thrown their weight behind the government on the N-deal, writes Pankaj Vohra.Updated: Sep 08, 2008, 01:30 IST
The second meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at Vienna has proved to be extremely significant in more ways than one as far as India is concerned. India has got the waiver but after a lot of hiccups. It is now crystal clear that China had all along been attempting to block India’s entry into the nuclear club. In the initial stages, it used some of our Left parties to block the Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement. When that failed, it tried to use some of the smaller countries to put up resistance. And when their efforts appeared to crumble, the Dragon came out no-holds barred to scuttle the waiver. Finally, Washington’s deft handling of the situation and George Bush’s hard talk with some world leaders clinched the issue for us. And with this, our draft was accepted unanimously at the end of the extended session.
Second, the politics that swirled around in Vienna has also brought to fore the total mismanagement of our diplomacy mechanism when it comes to dealing with smaller countries. By putting all our eggs in the US basket in the hope that this would get us past the post at the NSG stage, the foreign office in general, and some retired but re-employed civil servants in particular, have shown how ill-equipped they were in dealing with the crisis. It’s plain common sense to have ensured that opposition from smaller countries, however, insignificant they may seem, would either have been muted or disappeared.
It is evident that the foreign office is in serious need of a drastic overhaul. In future, New Delhi has to devise better ways of dealing with smaller nations even if career diplomats may find that an impediment to furthering their own individual careers.
The third point that needs to be highlighted is the role of our political parties, particularly the BJP and the Left, who while trying to appear as “whistle blowers on some wrong doing’’, seem to be inadvertently or deliberately serving the interests of our enemies. By attacking the government, which won a vote of confidence on the issue in the Lok Sabha while negotiations were at a crucial stage in Vienna, both the parties have acted most irresponsibly.
It is indeed a shame that opposition leaders should doubt the patriotism or nationalism of our government in general and the Prime Minister in particular. Are they trying to prove that they are more patriotic and nationalist than others? What gives them the right to raise doubts about anyone else’s patriotism, and that too of Manmohan Singh whose personal credibility is far greater than any other politician in this country?
There can be points of disagreement among parties on various issues. This is natural in a democracy. But, is it fair to question any one on their love for their country just because the viewpoint expressed by some top opposition leaders was superseded by a more dominant and accurate one?
Are the Left parties and BJP so naïve that they do not understand that even in the US, there can be elements who maybe opposed to this deal and do not want to see it through. This is also bound to happen since the US is also a democracy and lot of things happen in the run-up to agreements or international commitments which do not necessarily get reflected in the same way when the final draft is mutually accepted. That is why the US always likes to deal with dictators who can ensure that dissent is muffled. But in a democracy like ours, all viewpoints should be expressed in the public domain. But once a decision is taken in the country’s interest, there should be unanimity. After all, national interest is above all including the individual and the party. We got into the deal because of what’s in it for us. The US has done it for the same reasons.
What is distasteful is the kind of language some of the Left leaders have been using about the Prime Minister and the government. It’s all very fine to have disagreements. But at the end of the day, India’s interests have to come before that of say, China’s. It is just as well that China stands exposed now. It is very important for a country to know who its friends and enemies are. But that does not mean that we should give up on China and allow US to walk all over us. It will be a test of our diplomacy to maintain a fine balance between the two which will work to our advantage. The US is not in the game for charity. It has its own agendas. It should also be dealt with keeping in mind whether the issues at stake are in our own interest or not.
There are alarming signs that in the US-China tussle for supremacy in the South Asian region, India could become a target of attempts to balkanise it especially given the rise of regionalism and naxalism in the backdrop of a weak Centre. In fact, a period of instability in the entire region could lead to conflict-type situations both internally and externally.
The Vienna experience must be viewed in the proper perspective. It has helped us to understand ourselves better and it has helped us to renew our resolve to come out stronger. The BJP’s argument that India is surrendering its right to test is a very exaggerated view since we do not need to test any nuclear device in the immediate future. It is more important that we get our priorities right. Access to more energy and breaking our nuclear isolation are far more important than testing now. To say otherwise is both out of context and fallacious.
There was demand in some quarters that the Prime Minister must quit since he took a high moral ground and even risked his government for the sake of the nuclear deal. There is no reason for him to do so. The indisputable point, however, is that in matters relating to the country’s interests, parties must back the government, irrespective of who heads it.