Political Fallout of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Mrs. (Indira) Gandhi‘s heroics resulted in India witnessing more than three decades of “Nuclear Apartheid,” following the 1974 Pokharan nuclear tests. With a helping hand from the United States, India is back in the club of nuclear elites and their groupies, as Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, a.k.a. the “123 Agreement“, was passed by the US Senate on Wednesday, ending more than thirty years of prejudice. Later on President Bush said, “I look forward to signing this bill into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership.” It will be interesting to see what role we play, that of a submissive groupie or an elite.

123 Agreement
123 Agreement

Apart from (hopefully) strengthening the strategic partnership between India and the United States, a successful deal means (if we put all other matters of home aside for the time being) ominous signs for Indira Congress and its allies, collectively known as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in Indian politics.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh now stands on a higher than ever ground of his political career, both in his own party and Indian politics. Congress hails the present hour to be Dr. Singh’s finest hour. This means that, apart from Sonia Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh will be the face of the Congress Party at center-stage in the upcoming general elections. It was Dr. Singh whose strong political will and non-aggressive stance saw the deal through. Whether the deal is good or bad for the state and the nation is another matter, but just the fact that Dr. Singh fulfilled a promise he made is a huge boon to his party. After all, it is not everyday that politicians in India keep their promises, and this event will surely stay long in a voter’s memory.

Singh-Bush alliance
Singh-Bush alliance

Dr. Singh and his government had to face strong criticism from their allies, the left parties, and the opposition lead by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) both. In the process, the UPA government faced its worst ever political crisis when the left parties chose to withdraw support.

I have a lot of respect for the Left for its issue-based political stands. In all the drama that ensued regarding the 123 agreement during past couple of years, many fail to see why the Left stood its ground. If it supported the deal, the Left would have lost its image as staunch opponent of US “imperialism”, risking serious erosion of core support and loyalty. Unlike the right and centrist parties, the Left criticizes the deal as part of a Indo-US “strategic partnership” or India’s strategic embrace of the US. It also refers to the impact of the agreement on India’s advocacy of universal nuclear disarmament, the ideology which the UPA promised to return to while embracing the power in center. Whether Left will succeed in maintaining its core support or not is an interesting prospect of the future to observe.

BJP on the other hand is in muddy waters, as their shallow political stunts and the wide-spread unrest can easily be seen. It was the BJP government in the center when the deal was proposed–although it vehemently denied anything to do with the deal later, when it sat in the opposition–and the success of the present government seeing the deal through means a big jolt to its campaign of getting back in the center of power. Its position, with respect to the deal, is that of a disruptive opportunist.

But the power game is very complicated! Though UPA succeeded in bringing home the deal, there are several issues that decide the outcome of the political gimmickry called General Elections. UPA has failed (to a certain extent; that extent depends on where you stand) when it comes to a lot of matters of the homeland. That analysis is surely not the subject of this post.


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