Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Indo-US Nuclear deal

22/07: This is not a time for blogging. Only live TV can show you what Vinod Mehta calls the 'cattle market out there'. Far from being depressed, I am taking a a sort of nihlistic pleasure in watching how low our elected representatives can sink. No words are being minced, euphemisms have been thrown out of the window. 25 crores is the going rate for an MP's vote, and while we are used to hearing these things, now MPs are rushing to the well of the house with wads of cash as evidence that they have been bribed.

Shekhar Gupta: if someone high up in the JMM scandal (remember? we have been here before. so many times.) if someone high up in the JMM scandal had gone to jail, this would not have happened.

When I was a kid and read news reports of Parliamentary proceedings (I did not do this often) or heard that 'MPs rushed to the well of the House', I used to think that there was a well on the grounds of Parliament and that the MPs were threatening to commit suicide by jumping into it if their demands were not met. This seemed entirely plausible to me and in the highest traditions of Gandhian self-sacrifice. Alas, I thought too highly of them.

14:15 - feeling slightly better. Watching MPs trying to make themselves heard over the din of chanting, protesting fellow members is actually quite a moving and riveting sight (when they talk sense). Mehbooba Mufti gave up in frustration, but Omar Abdullah was actually pretty good (even though I think I disagree with his position on the deal) - supports the deal and distances himself from both the Left (who arrogate to themselves the position of being the only defenders of Muslims/secularism, he says) and the BJP (regrets that he did not resign after Gujarat, when he was a minister in the NDA govt. I should have listened to my conscience, he says.). He will be one to watch.

14:27 - Salman Khursheed says some things are legitimate inducements for votes (projects for constituencies, cabinet positions), and other things are not (cash).

What is becoming very clear is that the debate in Parliament today is not about the deal. It's too much of a coincidence that everybody who is against the deal just happens to be in favour of early elections. This is already about the next elections and all positions are being taken with that larger(?) aim in mind.

14:34 - Manmohan Singh looks like a sphinx.

14:41 - overwhelming mood of cynicism in the NDTV studio. All the panelists are laughing wryly at the amounts of money involved. This is all stage managed by the opposition to make the vote look tainted, Jayanti Natarajan insists. Why have the alleged bribe amounts dropped?someone asks. Maybe because once the opposition realised that the UPA was winning, the asking amounts for support reduced. So they decided to stage manage with 1 crore instead of 25. Nice.


15:02 - 253 in favour, 230-something against, 50-something slips have to be counted for the final tally. Manmohan manages a flat smile, but it's not over till the fat lady (poor Somnath) sings.

15:12 - It looks like the UPA has won; but something intangible has been lost today in that image of wads of cash being waved around in the Lok Sabha. Signing out for today.


21/07: The trust vote in Parliament is today. *Massive* horse trading not-s0-behind the scenes. Fali Nariman says no one cares about the merits of the issue at hand. Watch Indian politics get as ugly as it is possible to get.


14/07: India's ability to take 'corrective measures' in the event of a fuel supply cutoff is guaranteed by the IAEA agreement, but this possibility is mentioned only in the preamble. Preambles are not legally binding (if they were, the wonderful preamble to the NPT would have ensured global nuclear disarmament long ago). The action is all in Article 32.


11/07: interview with Advani in which he clarifies that the BJP welcomes the strategic relationship with the US, but is concerned more narrowly with the implications of the Hyde Act.


9/07: apologies for the fragmented blogging. I am trying to piece together some understanding of this earth shatteringly important issue that I have come to rather belatedly. This is the text of the Left Front's letter to the GoI. As I understand it, at the heart of the nuclear deal is the promise of fuel in return for acceptance of inspections (IAEA safeguards). The Left seems to be worried that although fuel supplies can be withdrawn for a number of reasons (under the US's Hyde Act), under the terms of the agreement, India is obliged to accept IAEA oversight in perpetuity - thereby opening up the possibility of a situation in which it is under 'safeguards' but has no fuel. This seems to be the thrust of the 5 questions it has put to GoI. One procedural issue is that the government has refused to release the text of the IAEA agreement even to its partners providing support in Parliament. It claims that its hands are bound by the IAEA, which prohibits release of the statement till it has been circulated to all of its board members. But how can Parliaments check their executives, if they have no idea what they are doing? (11/07: Today's Hindu editorial says that the government's claim about IAEA procedure is false and that GoI has been showing 'paranoic non-transparency' over this issue since March 2005.)


For the first time ever in the history of independent India, the GoI is threatened with collapse on an issue of foreign policy as the Left withdraws the support of its 59 MPs. The Samajwadi Party has offered to vote with the government, but even its 39 MPs will leave the government 8 short of a majority. Other parties have offered support, potentially staving off collapse - but this is far from certain. For one thing, not all SP members seem to be on board. Intriguingly, there is talk of its Muslim MPs being against the nuclear deal (something Mulayam has strenuously denied): (i) is this true? or are the usual suspects drumming up charges of 'anti-patriotism'? (ii) even if it were, what is the basis of this opposition? (probably that an Indo-US agreement places India firmly in some sort of global anti-Muslim camp) Not much comment about this in the press. Yet. For more on what happens next go here.

Some shred of democracy preserved in virtue of the fact that GoI will not go to the IAEA before it wins a confidence motion in Parliament. Pranab Mukherjee's voice tightens at the end of this statement, but he concludes in remarkably good temper, thanking the Left for having extended its support for the last 4 years against 'the communal forces'.

Brinda Karat is 'puzzled and perplexed'. The nuclear deal is a key opening up India to US hegemonic designs, she says. Is the Left staring at political isolation? We are not isolated from our principles and the working people of this country, she says.

i thought it was a real well too.

watched about 3 hours of the tamasha. i have increased respect for somnath chatterjee. and i agree that omar abdullah spoke really well. i remember him as a rookie politician and he came across as polished and elitist. but i've been following him of late, esp with the whole amarnath thing and he's become much more engaging. btw, there was a hilarious assamese guy after that- did you hear him?

btw, cnn ibn went crazy when the story broke. coz they don't look too good in this. and rajdeep i think is seriously afraid that the govt will now come after him. he was shrieking hysterically about how cnn ibn was a neutral channel and how they had no wish to align themselves with any political party.

sorry i didn't make it to oxford this time. i had a really really hectic time. BUT, i'm in london again in sept. when i'm assuming u'll be there too. and i'll be there for a whole week or maybe more on research. so shall definitely meet then?
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