Tag Archive for 'Indo-US nuclear deal'

The true story of one of the biggest scandals in recent Indian parliamentary history

Ashish Khetan in Tehelka:

This is a story that stands to turn contemporary discourse on its head. It is a dark story of how three mainstream political parties—and sections of the media—have fooled the nation. It is a story of how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) willfully set out to entrap its opponents in the cash-for-votes scandal. It is a story of how the Samajwadi Party voluntarily fell into the trap. It is a story of how the Congress covered it all up. It is also, unfortunately, a story of how sections of the media muddied the truth.

This is how the story goes.

As everyone knows, the two-year-old cash-for-votes scandal is back to haunt the UPA government. Parliament has been in uproar over the past few days as outraged Opposition parties, led by the BJP, have demanded that the government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh step down on moral grounds. “A government which survived on such a political sin has no authority to continue even for one minute. We demand this government resign immediately,” thundered Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. BJP veteran LK Advani reiterated this position, saying, “We would like the Prime Minister to come to the House and announce that he has decided to resign in the light of the new revelations.”

As everyone knows too, this political storm was triggered by a secret diplomatic cable published by The Hindu , in partnership with WikiLeaks, on 17 March. In this cable sent by the US Embassy in New Delhi to the State Department of the United States on 17 July 2008, the US Charge d’Affaires Steven White wrote that five days before the Manmohan Singh government was to face a crucial vote of confidence on the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, Nachiketa Kapur, an aide to Congress leader Satish Sharma, had showed him two chests containing cash. According to Kapur, the cash was part of a larger fund of Rs 50 crore to Rs 60 crore that was lying around Satish Sharma’s house to purchase the support of MPs to clinch the vote.

According to this cable, Kapur also claimed that four MPs belonging to Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had already been paid Rs 10 crore each to ensure they voted in the UPA’s favour on the floor of the Lok Sabha.

There were several inaccuracies in this cable that made it problematic. Nachiketa Kapur was not a formal aide of Satish Sharma but a Congress hanger-on who was sacked from service in the past by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury for corruption. The RLD had three MPs at the time, not four. And the Lok Sabha records show that none of them voted in favour of the UPA government. More:

The party man or the economist?

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

One wants to be the Prime Minister of India for the next five years; the other, the incumbent, has been PM for the past five. Aakar Patel on LK Advani and Manmohan Singh in Mint-Lounge:

He opposes the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why? Because America does not treat India as “equals”. He views strategic policy through honour and emotion.

Of his autobiography’s 48 chapters, not one is on economics. Muslims, Kashmir, terrorism, Pakistan, Musharraf, Kargil, Shah Bano, Naxalism, Godhra, Assam, Ayodhya. These are his concerns. His passion is all about what other people should not do.

Under Advani, the BJP’s three policy thrusts were all negative: Muslims should not keep Babri Masjid; Muslims should not have polygamy; Kashmir should not have special status.

He offers nothing creative, even to Hindus, only resentment.

There is one brutally tough man in politics, but it is not Advani. This man is cold and emotionless when you observe him talk.

If power means the ability to influence change, he is the most powerful leader in the history of India.
His policies, 18 years old, cannot be bent, forget changed, by leaders who came after he wrote them.


Assessing Manmohan Singh

As Indian heads for an election, Tehelka in a special issue analyses five years of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister:

The Shadow Warrior by Tarun J. Tejpal, Editor of Tehelka:

manmohansinghThe simple way for history to read the unusual Sikh is to say the Bible was right. The meek will inherit the earth – and sometimes the meek will also be decent and efficient. There can be no dispute about that – his decency and efficiency. Yet, laudable traits as they are, they are also routinely found in army officers, film technicians and swayamsewaks. In the leader of a billion people you may want to look for more. Vision, inspiration, courage, will, statecraft – the ability to articulate the soul of a people, to bend the arc of history to a higher note. Execution and implementation are indispensably wonderful things, but there are sound men to do that, bureaucrats and technocrats, economists and social workers – all of them excellent masons and carpenters constructing the edifice the architect has ordained. More:

The Turnaround Man by Sanjaya Baru who was Manmohan Singh’s media advisor:

Consider the facts. In 1991, India was on the verge of economic bankruptcy, and one of its key strategic allies, the Soviet Union, had just disappeared. There was domestic political turmoil, with the Indian National Congress forced to form a minority government after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. This came barely six years after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. No analyst would have regarded India a ‘rising power’ of the 21st century. Yet, presenting his first Budget to Parliament in July 1991, Manmohan Singh dared to predict that the idea of India as a rising economic power was “an idea whose time had come”. The rest, as they say, is history. More:

The Professor’s Empty Class, in which Swapan Dasgupta provides the view from the Right:

Any assessment of Manmohan’s stint must proceed with the recognition that India’s most non-political Prime Minister succeeded in the most politically daunting challenge before him: he carried his bat through the entire innings. It is conceivable that he succeeded precisely because he never deviated from his contrived unconcern with day-to-day politics. He was careful to never pose any threat to the politicians, and they, in turn, were happy to leave him undisturbed. Had he developed political ambitions midway – and it is so easy to acquire delusions of grandeur in a rarefied environment – he would undoubtedly have been a member of the other club of Prime Ministers who left prematurely. More:

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Obama and India

Some front pages:






And below, from Pakistan:


Obama presidency to pose challenges for Indian diplomacy

Siddharth Varadarajan in the Hindu:

Some fear the “re-hypenation” of India and Pakistan in American foreign policy and renewed activism on the question of Kashmir. Others worry about protectionism and curbs on outsourcing. The third set of concerns revolves around arms control issues. With Barack Obama reiterating his commitment to the early U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the early conclusion of a verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), there is a feeling that India will soon find itself under pressure to forswear nuclear testing and the production of weapons-grade nuclear material forever.

The fact that India has unhappy memories of some of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy advisers – Anthony Lake, Strobe Talbott, Robert Einhorn and Richard Holbrooke (the last two backed Hillary Clinton but later made their peace with the new President-elect) – is also contributing to a sense of unease on Raisina Hill. To be sure, there are more benign names and influences too – Vice-President-elect Joe Biden, for one, or the former State Department point man for South Asia, Karl Inderfurth. But with the unabashed lovefest which the George W. Bush administration produced for India, especially since 2004, this seems like pretty slim pickings.


How an Indian Republican supporter was won over by Obama

Jaithirth “Jerry” Rao, currently in Boston as entrepreneur-in-residence at the Harvard Business School, in the Indian Express:

It has been a strange experience for me personally. I have been staying in the US watching live TV for all the three Obama-McCain debates and for the Palin-Biden debate. And now I am here on election day. I am again glued to the TV switching from one news channel to another as they “call” the results.

I have been a traditional Republican supporter. My first mood change happened while watching the debates. McCain was simply not very convincing. He certainly did himself a considerable degree of disservice by not keeping his cool. Obama did not have all the answers, but he appeared more thoughtful. On balance, he came across as a more reasonable leader. Unlike many of my friends, I did not react negatively to Palin. I thought that she held her own pretty well. And despite the hyper-aggressiveness of her critics, I was left with the distinct impression that Palin is a leader who we are going to see a great deal more of in the years to come. I think of the impressive women leaders in India: Jayalalithaa, Mamata and Mayawati – who are looked down upon by self-styled fashionable intellectuals, but all of whom in my opinion are quite impressive.


Maya to Obama, signs of the new millennium

Gail Omvedt, an America-born sociologist whose essential work has centred on Dalit empowerment movements in India, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

I was in the US in May 2007, when Mayavati became chief minister of UP, and Obama was coming forward in the US primary. With my daughter’s friends, mostly young and radical South Asian Americans, and all Obama supporters we celebrated Mayavati’s achievement. After years of depressing Republican presidencies, war and neoliberalism, something new was happening in the world.

An African American was aiming for the presidency, while a Dalit (and a woman!) was heading India’s largest state and promising to become Prime Minister in 10 years. Old barriers of caste and race were being not only challenged, but surmounted. Obama has made history: will Mayavati?


Stephen Cohen on how the US sees India

In Mint, Jyoti Malhotra interviews Brookings Institution senior fellow of foreign policy Stephen P. Cohen:

Q: Seems to some of us here that the gap between the Indian elite and the Democrats is much wider than between the Indian elite and the Republicans…

A: The Democrats were more influenced by non-proliferation considerations, and for a number of years, this steered US policy towards South Asia, especially after the nuclear tests of 1998. But before that the Democrats were very pro-India, it was the Republicans that were hostile to India. The Republicans thought India was a socialist state, they didn’t like Nehru, they didn’t like Krishna Menon. It’s flip now.

Now that the non-proliferation issue is behind us, I would say one remarkable thing about elite public opinion in the US is that everybody likes India. Whether they are for the deal or against the deal, they like India as a state. I think that is a major accomplishment of India and it puts a new spin on our relationship. But here, for example, the Left parties are systemically anti-American, whereas in the US even those who are against the nuclear deal are very pro-India.


Barack Obama on India and Pakistan

The US presidential hopeful speaks on a range of subjects: the nuclear deal, Mahatma Gandhi, his ability to reconcile Islam with modernity, and how he wouldn’t have put all eggs in the Musharraf basket. In Outlook, an exclusive interview by Ashish Kumar Sen:

On his India connection: Mahatma Gandhi is his inspiration. As an anthropologist, his mother did work in rural India. Considers himself fortunate to have close Indian-American friends. His mother exposed him to different cultures, including India’s.

On Outsourcing: Believes workers in the US have to compete with those in Bangalore or Beijing, an irreversible feature of the world intricately interconnected because of IT. But to make globalisation work for American employees, he plans to offer tax incentives to those who create jobs in the US.


In the news: What’s the big deal about the Indo-US Nuke Deal?

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri explains in Hindustan Times:

Don’t expect nuclear reactors to drop out of the sky the day after the Indo-US nuclear agreement is completed. Don’t expect to get a job in a brand-new silicon chip factory the week after. On the other hand, don’t presume the Star-Spangled Banner will become part of the Republic Day parade. Or that India will wake up to find itself bereft of its nuclear deterrent.

To grasp why the deal is important, it helps to ask a simple question. Why does Prime Minister Manmohan Singh believe the nuclear deal is so crucial to the country’s future? Singh is uninterested in symbolic prizes for India. He barely lifted a finger to get India a permanent UN seat. “If our economy grows by 10 per cent for 10 years, we will get the seat automatically,” he says. Singh told China’s Hu Jintao he found G-8 summits a waste of time.