Purring about the 123 Agreement

BY Darius Nakhoonwala| IN Opinion | 01/08/2007
In different words, the Hindustan Times said the same thing, as did the Indian Express which has been the lead drummer for the deal.

You don`t say! 

Darius Nakhoonwala

Manmohan Singh, if not the UPA government as a whole, has made the nuclear deal with the US the touchstone of his success, intending it to be his lasting legacy. And, thanks to its drumbeaters in the media, the US has been able to portray itself as a saviour of India`s long term technological and economic interests.

The resulting 123 deal that was agreed upon by the officials of the two countries, therefore, was the biggest event of last week. One would have expected all the major newspapers to write about it. In the event only a handful did.

Most of them took an entirely predictable line, namely, that it was the best thing to happen in a long, long time.   Thus:

"The Indo-US nuclear deal actually marks a new and unprecedented high in the relationship between the two countries," said the Telegraph. "That the treatment     (India is receiving) is special is undeniable. This is the first time that Washington has made such an exception in its non-proliferation policy for any country. Also, special care has been taken not to jeopardize India`s strategic autonomy or to compromise the country`s nuclear deterrent capability... India has come in from beyond the pale. "

In different words, the Hindustan Times said the same thing, as did the Indian Express which, in any case, has been the lead drummer for the deal.  So did the Deccan Herald and the rest of the papers. The Pioneer sulked, because Atal Bihari Vajpayee said that the deal was a good one.

The Asian Age has always been a sceptic and it too did not present us with any surprises. Its line was entirely predictable. It started off laying the `blame` squarely at the PM`s doors. " The Prime Minister has personally steered the 123 agreement through the Union Cabinet without releasing the text, or showing it to the UPA allies and the Opposition in what can only be perceived as scant regard for the democratic institutions of India."

That opening blow delivered, it warmed to its task. "…the Bush administration is insisting that discussions are still on and the agreement is not final as yet. Then what has Prime Minister Singh pushed through the Cabinet? The secrecy surrounding the negotiations, and now the silence over the status of the agreement as well as the content, have created a strong sense of unease in both New Delhi and Washington. The government here is in the midst of a public relations exercise in a bid to silence the critics from the media, the scientific community and the political parties by giving select portions of the agreement without the details."

And so on. You get the point?

Yeah, right. But the surprise came from the Hindu. This is very significant because, as the Indian Pravda, what it says on such issues usually represents the Left view.  And, folks, the Hindu was not doing its usual act this time, all full of piss and vinegar. Instead, it purred like a pussycat. In any case, I get very curious when an edit starts with "although."

Thus the Hindu:

"Although the text of the draft nuclear cooperation agreement settled in negotiations with the United States has not yet been made public, official accounts of its contents indicate that the assurances provided to Parliament by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have been fulfilled virtually in their entirety." Note no adjective, no comment.

The came a recap of the assurances the PM gave Parliament last July, followed by the Hindu`s assessment: "After last week`s agreement, it does seem that the first two concerns have been adequately addressed. The last concern is more open-ended, requiring continuous vigilance." Wow! Well, well, well. What do you know!!

The paper then listed all the nasty things the US had tried to do to get the deal stacked in its favour. "The reason these concerns came to the fore last year was the repeated attempt by Washington to dilute its own commitments."

But, "after several rounds of difficult negotiations…Washington has ended up conceding ground but New Delhi cannot claim to have had its way wholly either. " Which, if I may make so bold, is the point of all negotiations -- give-and- take.

"If it is confirmed that India has succeeded in protecting its interests, credit must be given not just to the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs, the Department of Atomic Energy, and the Prime Minister`s Office for their negotiating skills — but to all those who took part in the robust and, at times, no-holds-barred debate inside and outside Parliament" meaning the Hindu.

And the final endorsement: "From now on, the sequence of reciprocal actions needed to make the July 2005 agreement a reality can be said to favour India."


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