October 28, 2007Foreign AffairsSecurity

Guest post: A dissenting note on the nuclear deal

Trust, then verify

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

by Primary Red

Trust but verify Ronald Reagan once cautioned America. Similar counsel holds for India too.

The 123-agreement is a revolutionary step in the two nations’ blossoming relationship. Its implementation can symbolically overturn a half-century of mutual suspicion. It will help India advance her nuclear capabilities and address her energy needs.

It’s also highly technical and complex. The obligations it imposes leave India far short of full nuclear recognition. We wouldn’t be pariahs like Iran, yes, but not like the US either.

Is it really traitorous then to give the deal a thorough once-over before committing to it?

Comrade Karat does not like America. BJP likes America but not the Congress. Congress’ non-left allies like political power more than nuclear power. Politics inevitably has made its appearance, forcing us to really make sure that we’re doing the right thing. Why is this surprising or bad in a parliamentary democracy?

Deal proponents are screaming foul. Their near-religious conviction about the deal is quite disturbing. Most support the deal because the partnership is with America, not necessarily because of its minutiae. Many likely have never read the deal text — or if they have, not grasped it all.

I take second place to no one in favoring India’s strategic engagement with America. I also support the deal. But, for the life of me, I cannot see why it needs to be barreled through absent a legitimate political consensus.

The deal is likely the best possible at the present time. This, however, does not imply that its likely failure dooms us forever in a nuclear limbo. The deal is a consequence of India’s emergent power and America’s strategic calculus. Failure will change neither.

We’ll get a deal at some point. It’s better if we have it now but, if not, later is fine too.

This is why I am puzzled by the nascent murmur that BJP will bail the Government out. Taking this course, if available, would be a colossal political misjudgment by Dr. Singh. It’d rehabilitate a floundering party in the eyes of shining India lusting after the deal.

Could there be anything worse for India’s secular polity?

Instead, the case needs to be made to India’s people. If the deal really has merit, they will voice their approval in their vote. The left will be wiped out and BJP left in the cold. If not, the deal should rightfully be tranquilized for possible revival later. Courageously wagering the Government’s fate over strategic conviction is the stuff of legacy and lore.

Could there be anything better for India’s democracy than trusting our people to do the right thing, then daring to verify their intent?

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