Jul 17, 2008

Columnists - Sitaram Yechury

The push has come to shove. The political crisis that appeared imminent last fortnight could have been averted if the UPA government had refrained from pushing ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal, an issue that was not part of the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) on the basis of which the Left parties extended outside support. Unfortunately, this was not to be. With the open declaration of a ‘go ahead’ by the Prime Minister, the Left had no other option but to enforce the decision taken nearly two years ago to withdraw support if the government goes ahead.
However, the manner in which this declaration was made smacks of a desperation that goes beyond the PM’s eagerness to personally convey the “good news” to George W. Bush at the G-8 Summit. Before we take this up, much ado has been made of my being in London at the invitation of the British government when the Left parties withdrew support. My visit to Britain, pending for over an year, having been re-scheduled twice, coincided with the period when the PM was to be away at the G-8 Summit. This was undertaken in order to avoid any further diplomatic embarrassment as, apart from being the Head of the International Department of the CPI(M), I am also a member of the Indo-UK Parliamentarians Friendship Group. In any case, there were no new decisions to be taken and no further negotiations as it was decided that the UPA-Left Committee discussing the Indo-US nuclear deal would meet on July 10 when a final call on the matter would be taken.
Why was this pre-empted by the Prime Minister? Especially when he and the whole country knew that this would only trigger the response of withdrawal by the Left? Further, while the Convenor of the UPA-Left Committee, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, announced that the government would proceed only after demonstrating its majority on the floor of the Lok Sabha, he was, we can only infer, presumably unaware that the Prime Minister had already signed the relevant papers to proceed. Apart from the PM’s eagerness to go down in history as having cemented India to a strategic relationship with US imperialism as a subordinate ally, certain international developments appear to have prompted such desperation. As has now become evident, Israel has made all preparations for a pre-emptive military strike on Iran. There are compelling reasons both for Tel Aviv and Washington to make this happen before the end of the latter’s tenure.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under tremendous pressure to quit for his alleged involvement in a number of corruption scandals, facing a criminal investigation in one case. Last Friday, the Israeli police announced that they were widening the corruption investigation against him. The Chairperson of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) Anti-Corruption Committee has stated: “Olmert staying in power would constitute an intolerable burden for the Israeli public, who deserves the Prime Minister who is not up to his neck in criminal procedures.” Under these circumstances, a military strike against Iran would provide the classic diversion to remain in power by whipping up jingoism. Further, the Bush administration is committed to fully supporting Israeli aggressiveness, both in political as well as in military terms. Given the public outcry in the US against the continued military occupation of Iraq, any American military action against Iran, however much Bush may wish to undertake it, does not appear feasible. Nothing could be better than a surrogate Israeli attack. The US has shown Israel the ‘amber’ light to “get on with the preparations, standby for attack and tell us (US) when ready”. Israel’s recent announcement to attack Iran comes against this background.
But then, what has all this to do with the Indo-US nuclear deal? If such an attack on Iran happens, then it would be virtually impossible to ‘sell’ the go-ahead on the Indo-US nuclear deal to sections of the Congress and the UPA allies. This explains the desperate hurry to move ahead.
This only resoundingly vindicates the Left’s apprehensions regarding the implications of this deal on our independent foreign policy, our political and economic sovereignty. To be fair, the UPA has expressed its serious concern over the Israeli declaration to strike Iran. But this is not sufficient. India has already launched one Israeli spy satellite. It is committed to launch two more. This must now be scrapped as these would provide crucial logistical support and information in the war effort. If this is not done, then it is clear that India is already succumbing to US pressure even before the nuclear deal is finalised.
These are the dangers that the Left has warned about regarding the consequences of tying up with the US as a strategic junior partner. The trust vote in the Lok Sabha next Tuesday must focus on these concerns that seriously determine the character of our republic and its future as an independent sovereign nation. Unfortunately, this seems to be overshadowed by the shockingly callous ‘horse-trading’ that appears to be taking place. This is not surprising. The Indo-US nuclear deal will spin off nuclear commerce worth hundreds of billions of dollars. There are huge profits to be made by multinational corporations and many Indian corporates. The money spent on ‘horse-trading’ pales into insignificance compared to the quantum of profits. In the process, India’s sovereignty and independent foreign policy would come under severe jeopardy. It is precisely this that the Left seeks to prevent in the interests of India’s future.
Let us all hope that the Lok Sabha debate and the vote will stop this disastrous slide, of India being reduced to a subordinate ally of US imperialism.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP

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