Do N-deal with China

on Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jug Suraiya

By now the so-called Indo-US nuclear deal has become a shaggy dog story: a prolonged bad joke that goes on and on with no end or punchline in sight. It is obvious to any but to the most wilfully rosy-eyed that the deal — enormously advantageous as it is for India, in terms of international status and access to nuclear material and strategic dual-use technology — is not going to happen. The Indian Left, particularly the CPM, will not let it happen, on threat of withdrawing support to the Congress-led UPA government. And the Congress, clinging on to office with all the desperation of a man dangling over a bottomless abyss by his fingernails, is too frightened to call the CPM’s bluff. (Does the CPM really want elections right now, caught up as it is with the Gorkhaland agitation and the backlash of the Nandigram/Singur fiasco? For that matter, is the BJP — the CPM’s strange ally in opposing the nuclear deal — any readier to face the electorate, what with its internal dissensions and its hard line/soft line waffling over the whole Hindutva package, beginning with the mandir?)
In any event, the Congress is too tenacious of office to chance its arm. So it seems that the nuclear deal is doomed to fizzle out like a damp squib. Or is it? With the BJP increasingly nuancing its opposition to the deal considering that closer Indo-US ties are broadly favoured by its urban middle-class constituency, the main stumbling block is the CPM. However, the CPM’s visceral opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal is not because of the nuclear component but because of the US component: nuclear power (for peace or otherwise) is now fine; it’s the US that is the great bogeyman.
The Indian communists, who had earlier decried Pokhran I and II, are now so gung-ho about the country’s nuclear programme that one of their objections to the nuclear deal with the US is that it might compromise India’s autonomy to conduct Pokhran III, IV, V, VI and VII. No, the comrades are now all for nukes. But they can’t be nukes which are in any way ritually contaminated by American association.
But there is another supply of nuclear know-how and hardware much nearer to India geographically and much closer to the CPM ideologically: China. Indeed, while New Delhi is dithering over the deal with the US, Beijing is reportedly eager to home-deliver nuclear capabilities of various sorts (it’s called proliferation) to an already nuclear-enabled Islamabad, as it had done earlier to Pyongyang. In fact, it was largely through Chinese help that Pakistan cut its nuclear teeth as a response to India’s Pokhran I.
What the CPM should now do is to talk Beijing into doing a nuclear kutti with Islamabad and establishing nuclear links with New Delhi instead. The CPM’s cuddliness with Beijing is well known and Comrade Karat and Co should not find it beyond their powers of blandishment to inveigle the Middle Kingdom into becoming India’s nuclear sugar daddy. Of course, if New Delhi were to fall into Beijing’s nuclear embrace, the rest of the international community might well make its displeasure felt by imposing trade and other embargoes. So what? The CPM has made it quite clear, with regard to Tibet and other issues, that the whole world were well lost if only China were gained.
But how to gain China? To begin with, the CPM should unilaterally concede to all Beijing’s demands regarding Arunachal Pradesh, a portion of Sikkim, and other parts of India which China claims for itself. To further sweeten the deal for China, the Marxists might also consider ceding the would-be Gorkhaland to Beijing, thereby getting shot of an awkward domestic problem created by people whom Bengal’s transport minister has described as ‘foreigners’.
In fact, in order to demonstrate its patriotic credentials the CPM might be tempted to cede itself to Beijing, hammer, sickle and all. Such a move would, once and for all, demonstrate the CPM’s patriotic credentials. To China, of course. Who else? For unlike in India where we let them hang around, in China they simply hang their traitors.

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