President Bush's high-profile visit to India in early March was supposed to be aimed at finalizing a deal on the separation of India's civilian and military nuclear programs. But another major goal of the trip was to ensure India as a strategic ally to the US. The Bush administration reasoned that India can help to strengthen the US' hegemonic interests in the Asian region and, at the same time, act as a counterweight to the growing power of China. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the deal a "strategic achievement."
Some people were swayed by the mainstream media's euphoria over the Indo-US nuclear deal signed during this visit, which overshadowed the damage potential of other agreements in the areas of defense, agricultural research, science and technology, and infrastructure development to India's interests and its sovereignty.
New Delhi and Washington reached an agreement on the crucial second stage of the Indo-US nuclear agreement. According to the deal, India has to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities; doing so will safeguard 14 of its 22 nuclear power reactors against diversion of technology and materials to military uses under the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Indian side was happy that their fast breeder program, the bread and butter of the country's electricity generation program, was exempted from the purview of international inspections.
But many questions remain unanswered. Why doesn't India, voluntarily and on its own, get into the phasing of separation of civilian and military facilities, in accordance with its long-term national interests? Why cannot India alone, not in the company of the US, determine the placement of its future nuclear facilities under either category?
India's ruling elites don't answer these questions, because they aspire to join hands with the US and thereby reap dividends from US-centered foreign capital. If that aspiration were not in place, they would ensure that India's future energy program didn't become dependent on the US and its client states for imported nuclear reactors and fuel. They also would seriously evaluate the techno-economics of nuclear energy, determine its quantum in India's energy basket and act accordingly.
The prudent approach to meeting India's energy needs through its nuclear program is to utilize indigenous capability and avoid large-scale import of nuclear reactors. Instead, the nuclear deal benefits the US corporations through the supply of uranium fuel, the sale of nuclear reactors and the supply of arms and other weaponry to India.
After Bush's visit, the White House Office issued a statement, rebutting criticisms about the nuclear deal. They stated that the agreement was good for the American economy -- read: American big business -- because it would meet India's surging energy needs, "and that will lessen India's growing demand for other energy supplies ..."
It refers to the cooperation between Iran and India and the financially beneficial project of constructing pipelines for the supply of natural gas from Iran to India across Pakistan. This project is beneficial to India both in terms of Indian energy needs and in terms of improved relations with India's neighbor countries. The White House was determined to impede this project.
The US adopted a carrot-and-stick policy in utilizing the nuclear deal. India was assured of nuclear materials and technology from the US and from Nuclear Suppliers Group, but only once the US law prohibiting supplying such materials and technology to non-signatories of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been amended. Will the US Congress, being skeptical of this deal, pass the amendments? India must wait a long time to find out. In the meantime, the US will put pressure on India to open its retail trade to Wal-Mart and otherwise serve the interests of corporate America.
A board consisting of representatives from Wal-Mart and Monsanto has been set up to carry forward the "Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, Research and Education." In order to further promote multinational corporations' interests in Indian research, forty agricultural universities and research institutions are being linked to this initiative. Also, the terms of the intellectual property rights (IPR) would serve the US, as their IPR regime offers patent holders rights to life forms, plants and seeds. The interests of Indian farmers and their rights to indigenous genetic resources are now in danger.
Already Indian farmers are being starved by the atrocious global market thanks to the liberalization of agriculture. Nobody among the ruling elites bothers to consider how a starving peasant in the state of Andhra Pradesh might view the grand Red Carpet welcome given to those who have destroyed their lives. How would those poor peasants view the fact that Bush's dogs stayed in luxurious five-star hotels -- or the fact that Indians were told not to call them "dogs," as they were really "officers" of the American army?
An Indian representative will be present in the advisory board of "International Centre for Democratic Transition" (ICDT), a US platform to promote "democracy," which means the "regime change" of all those countries opposed to US hegemony. This idea is very much contradictory to India's highly-valued principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of another country. Indian leaders kept silent when Bush talked of the need to promote democracy and regime change in countries like Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe and others in his speech in Delhi.
There is so much behind the friendly Texan hug Bush gave to his Indian hosts.
Massive, unprecedented protests against Bush's visit reverberated through the streets in all the major cities and towns of India, revealing Bush to be the country's most unwelcome visitor in recent times. The history of the atrocities of the Bush administration was displayed on the numerous placards, banners and posters held by the hundreds of thousands of protesters in the rallies. The US occupation of Iraq was, of course, the main cause for the rage. Referring to the agreements with the US, one popular slogan was, "India amBushed."
N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.