Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies and Sycophancy


It is time to launch a massive campaign not just against the "notorious nuclear deal" as Prakash Karat put it, but against the agencies of disinformation and lying that predominate the corridors of power. Quick Comment.


In November 2007, the Indian government formed a UPA-Left Committee to look into the aspects of the nuclear deal from a political, strategic and technical perspective. The committee was supposed to discuss the features of the deal before ultimately making the final decision whether or not to operationalise the deal. It was seen as a face saving device between two allies, who had virtually diametric opposite views on the deal. While the Left had not let the government to proceed any further, the government got a valuable concession from the left to allow it to talk to the IAEA to pencil a safeguards agreement. The concession came with the caveat that the negotiated agreement be then brought into committee, before any decision to provide it to the board of governors of the IAEA is made.

First Lie

It turned out that neither was the text brought to the purview of the committee (the government instead presented a summary), nor was the government willing to place the text for discussion, terming that the text was classified. Instead the government tried to play a new tune, 'let us go to the IAEA board of governors, we will bring back the deal to the parliament after the up-down vote in the US Congress at which point the parliament's decision to accept it or not will be considered'. This refrain was confirmed by the prime minister himself in his statements. Clearly this refrain was not just against the grain of the UPA-Left Committee's written agreement, it was a blatant violation. Obviously the government had lied when it said that it wanted the text to be discussed before sending it to the board of governors.

The Text is "classified"?

When pointed out that the text of the IAEA safeguards agreement was not available in the public domain (the features of the safeguards agreement and the necessity to verify it's contents need not detain us in this article; they have been laid out in a statement of the left parties and also by a statement by eminent nuclear scientists circulated in the media), the government mentioned that it was not possible, as one had to "join government" to get to see the text of the agreement. Why is the government making this classification? After all texts/protocol negotiated with the IAEA by other countries (most prominently, the government's guru these days, the US) are available in the public domain and the IAEA itself has gone on record saying that it has not classified the text. Clearly the government has something to hide. Is it the fact that the text has clauses that violate the understanding provided by the prime minister in the house when he provided clear cut assurances about "full civil nuclear cooperation"? We cannot but speculate as the government is not keen at all to provide the text for us to make a reasoned conclusion.

Another lie

The next lie was even more damning. Just the day when the government effectively became a "minority" after the left parties withdrew support, the external affairs minister gave an assurance in public, that the government will not go to the IAEA board of governors before winning a vote of confidence as required once the president formally asks the government to face parliament on this issue. Fair enough, we thought, the government had spine and was willing to the right thing. We were wrong. The government, atleast the external affairs minister, simply lied. It was revealed by the IAEA itself in a press release on the 8th of July that the Indian government has indeed requested the IAEA secretariat to circulate the draft treaty for consideration of its board of governors. Clearly, the Indian government and its representatives in the cabinet had lived upto their lying credentials yet again.

What explains these public displays of bluffing and lying to the nation, in a matter of few days? It is not very difficult to surmise from where they have learnt this habit: from the perpetual liar and head of the US government, George Bush. Just a day before, Manmohan Singh emphatically said that India should stand "head-to-head and shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States". In a prelude to such "standing", Manmohan Singh's government now stands toe-to-toe and heart-to-heart with the biggest liar (ask Center for Public Integrity which documented more than 900 public lies by the George Bush government leading up to the horrible Iraq occupation). It is no secret that the US administration is teaching our dishonored government to just fib off right in the eyes of the public hawks of Indian democratic institutions. It is after all easy to do that. Very few newspapers/ news channels (such as The Hindu) will question these lies by pointing them out. After all, the corporate press is gaga about sending the nuclear deal to the next stage, "written agreement" may go to hell. And what if the IAEA safeguards text is not available in the public domain, eh?, they would not even ask. After all they have already been standing heart-to-heart and toe-to-toe with the American press in the way things are reported.

It is time to launch a massive campaign not just against the "notorious nuclear deal" as Prakash Karat put it, but against the agencies of disinformation and lying that predominate the corridors of power. It is time that democrats, progressives and believers in the spirit of constitutionalism join hands together in this endeavor.

8 comments:

Vibhav said...

Srini,

Agree that Congress has mishandled the N-deal affairs over the last month. Too much of confusion, commotion and chaos. But Left was just waiting on the sidelines for some situation like this to happen so that it can pull the plug.
According to me, had they done it when inflation touched 12%, they might have gained some lost ground in WB.
Communism for the mere sake of it without any rational and logical reasons isn't going to take these parties anywhere. Before opposing the deal, they should have just visited China once more, this time to check their Nuclear power generation facilities.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Dear Vibhav,

Signing a deal like the Indo-US Nuclear Deal is more than mere commercial transfer of nuclear power. If India got a 123 agreement like what the Chinese or the Japanese had, there would not have been so much of a hum-drum against this Hyde Act driven deal. As for withdrawal of support over inflation etc, it can pay political dividends, but why subject the common man to a situation where there is no government and no one to take urgent steps to reduce inflationary pressures? The government can do a lot of work to pad the poor from the problems of inflation. It can strengthen the public distribution system. It can pad costs through taxes on windfall profits and through other measures.

Before accusing the Left alone for opposing the deal, you should know that India's premier nuclear scientists have also called for the deal to be scrapped in its present form. If you haven't seen it, this should help:

http://www.pragoti.org/node/1562 (Check below for signed statements by PK Iyengar, A Gopalakrishnan and AN Prasad).

Foreign policy experts such as MK Bhadrakumar have also opposed the deal's strategic caveats:

http://www.pragoti.org/node/1591 (Bhadrakumar's detailed answers to a rediff.com correspondent)

And others too.

shubho said...

Dear Srini,

It is interesting to note that in his four years in office, Dr. Singh was never found to be bold, determined and confident to address various national issues as he is found to be today while standing beside George Bush. The media is overwhelmed and glad to finally discover a firm and will powered Prime Minister. Dr. Singh is giving the impression now that he was holding the chair only to augment the process of a wide strategic alliance with the United States. The print and electronic media in a motivated manner is consistently trying to explain to the people of India in simplistic terms about the goodness of the deal but the fact remains that in the pretext to meet India’s nuclear energy needs, the Indo-US Nuclear Deal is actually a close strategic and military tie up covering political, economic and military cooperation with Washington.

We should acclaim the Left, especially the CPIM for initiating a battle of resistance. Only after thorough research and analysis they have appeared for the battle and thus their point of debate cannot be easily brushed aside by uttering cliché words like ‘anti-American’ or ‘pro-Chinese’. Their categorical and continuous exposure of the evil designs behind the deal has made a section of this country, may be small, aware and alert that things are not as good as they appear. The useful links you have provided will also make these points clear.

The media is upbeat to comment that the Left is fighting a lost the battle. Many of us do not think so. But we can make out that the actual battle has only just started.

Srinivasan Ramani said...

Dear Shubho-da,

You are very right. The battle will continue. It is disconcerting that the PM should be so beholden to the US administration and does not at all see it fit to wait for a new US administration replacing the discredited Bush ruled one, before making moves on the nuclear deal. That would help India to escape both the impinging features of the Hyde Act as well from dovetailing into the geo-strategic games that the US administration under Bush wants to play in the Asian region.

Contrary to what the media makes it to be, it is possible for us to live without a imported nuclear energy component in the short term and develop enough alternatives for the long term. Surely, nuclear power cannot fuel transportation, which remains the biggest sufferer because of the oil crisis. The gas pipeline can help mitigate this problem surely. And the US remains staunchly opposed to the gas pipeline project from Iran, too.

At the same time, it is also possible for India to work together with other regimes across the world to build a disarmament regime (which is more possible if Bush is shown the exit door) that is equitable and non-discriminatory. Once that is done, we can still have civil nuclear cooperation with various countries across the world, provided that this forms only a certain optimal part of our overall energy policy. You should in this regard, read scholars such as D.D.Kosambi who have identified the necessity and power of solar energy ("leave it to the sun to do the fission and fusion for us!").

Anand P.K said...

The UPA Government has basically lost it in the last 48 hours!! From speaking white lies, they have also stationed Veerappa Moily to lambast the Left parties for being 'insensitive' and 'joining the communal forces'!!Leaving Moily to his antics, it is important to note that even at this time, when the government has been reduced to a minority, it has sought to reinforce its characteristic feature of blatant lying and taking the people for a ride. Swing from 'the safeguards cannot be publicized as it was a classified document(Something the IAEA itself clarified as not being so) to technology falling into wrong hands', the people of this country have been taken for a ride. Such utter desperation on the part of the government to seal the deal has led to the neglect of the double digit inflation. The people of this country may very well seal the 'deal' of this government led by the Congress. The PM must realize that vehicles plying on our roads and the food we eat depend on the petroleum products and not nuclear fuel.

shubho said...

Dear Srini,

Now we know that there was no restriction from the IAEA on sharing the Safeguards Agreement draft document. Why did the government then give this false statement that according to IAEA procedure they are treating the Safeguards Agreement draft as a classified one and therefore cannot disclose it to a third party? Why there was so many contradictory statements coming from the government?

As the draft is now in public domain, can you give your insights on specifically what the government was trying to hide?

Srinivasan Ramani said...

As such, the safeguards text has been written in a fashion that India is treated as somewhere between the NPT nuclear haves and the NPT nuclear have-nots. The language and structure (some of the considerations that India was looking for as both a nuclear weapon state as well as a indigenous civil nuclear energy producer) were placed in preamble references while others were termed using "diplomatese" in the relevant clauses within the text.

Now, the trouble is that there was a problem with the "vagueness" of certain phrases such as "corrective measures" which did not (and could not go well before the release of the text) find acceptance by some of the nuclear energy scientists in the country as well as the non-proliferation lobby in the US/ others. The government perhaps was afraid of the processes getting delayed because of the adverse attention to the text of the safeguards agreement.

As such, the government is keen on working well within the time table set by the Bush administration to get the deal through, "no matter what". The understanding of course is to make the cooperation and deal as "irreversible" as possible with all the bottlenecks being taken care by the governments at their respective ends. And that is precisely why the Indian government felt it better to keep the text under wraps; but after obvious public condemnation they had to put the text in the public domain.

More than anything, it is this undue haste to act on the orders of the Bush administration that is absolutely galling. The government has seen it fit to give the opposition and even its allies the shortest shrift possible. In essence, it is insulting the people of the country with its charade of terming the text classified one day and releasing it on every damn website on earth the other.

But with the support of corporate groups (both Anil and Mukesh want their bags of pounds of flesh through their cronies in government), the intense US lobbying with various political groups in the country, the fact that many regional outfits see things from their expedient political situation; the government is confident of wading through the vote of confidence and ram through the deal before the demise of the Bush administration in December.

In crude words, Manmohan Singh has emerged as Bush's B team leader in the American efforts to secure their strategic interests in various parts of the world. Even Ehud Olmert will be jealous of Singh.

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