In one sense the transparently dishonest Communists are dead right: The nuke deal is NOT about the nuclear issue at all. It is a means to an end. The end being Indo-US strategic partnership for the next 40 years! This is essentially an adjustment that both countries are making to the emerging situation in the 21st century. It is true that right till the end of last century Indo-US relations bordered on cold to lukewarm. Who can forget the dispatch of the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal in 1971!
But in the same breath we must also acknowledge that after the August 1971 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with the erstwhile Soviet Union, we had a virtual alliance with that country. On the other hand, for nearly 20 years, from the 1972 Shanghai Declaration by Nixon and Chou En-lai right till 1992, the US and China were in a similar quasi alliance. Much of China's spectacular progress is owed to the massive inflow of American capital and technology, both denied to India.
The end of the Soviet Union ushered in new global equations. The US now fears the rise of China and its likely domination of Asia, and sees a powerful India as a natural counterweight to Chinese power. On the other hand China has emerged as the biggest arms supplier to Pakistan, India's perpetual thorn, and much of that country's missiles directed at us are supplied by them. In this case there is a convergence of interests between the US and India.
This author was told nearly seven years ago by a very senior American analyst that the US would make sure that India becomes a superpower. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared so openly last year. But the various American laws dealing with nuclear proliferation were an obstacle to American transfer of technology to India. The 123 (Ek, do, teen) deal is a means to get over those obstacles. But the strong non-proliferation lobby in the US put spokes in the deal. To satisfy them some cosmetic measures had to be put in the deal to make it acceptable to them as well as the larger Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The Ek, do, teen deal reminds one of the famous Bollywood song of the same words that launched Madhuri Dixit's career; in similar vein the nuke deal is just the beginning of a long and durable strategic partnership between the two countries. In the 1970s and 1980s most Indians supported friendship with the Soviet Union, not on any ideological grounds but due to the fact that our interests coincided. Now they coincide with the Americans'. Any Indian with India's interest at heart would support this deal.
Curiously, the Indo-US deal is being opposed not just by the Communists in India but also by Pakistan, China and Al Qaeda; the latter has just issued a warning to India. It is indeed a shame on the Communists that they are on the same side as India's enemies.
Anyone even briefly aware of the Indian Communists' past will not be surprised at this behaviour. In 1941, during World War II, an 'Imperialist War' suddenly became a People's War once Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Closer to our time, in 1962 a faction of the Communist party (now under the name of CPI-M) broke away from the parent body that was pro-Soviet Union, due to the split in Communist movement worldwide. Indian Communists have had a pro-Soviet faction and pro-China faction, but no pro-India faction.
The CPI-M to this day refuses to accept that China was the aggressor in 1962 and had no sympathy for our jawans who died fighting the Chinese. Various documents including the Henderson Brooks Report clearly bring out the anti-national role of the Communists. Like the jihadi dream of worldwide 'Khilafat', the Indian Communists are also still wedded to 'Comintern' or the Communist International.
Public memory is short, but it was these very Communists who were in the forefront of the denunciation of the nuclear tests carried out by India in May 1998! For them to now cry foul over the curb on testing is, as I said earlier, transparently dishonest.
Much of the opposition to the deal is centred round the issue of nuclear testing. Not a word is uttered about the unfettered right India has to keep increasing its stockpile and research, none of which has been restricted. It needs to be reiterated that at present no country is carrying out open testing of new weapons. If our scientists are satisfied that they can do it in the lab using computers etc, there is no reason to disbelieve them. If and when China or some other country resumes testing, India is still free to follow.
It is the political reality today that it is the US that is interested in India becoming China's equal in the military nuclear field. This not so bizarre as it sounds since enough material is available to show that in 1964, when China first tested its nuclear weapons, it was the US that unsuccessfully urged India to go nuclear!
It is thanks to American technology and help through Israel that for the first time the Indian armed forces have an edge over the terrorists. Now the Communists want us to break these relations and get Indian soldiers killed by the terrorists in Kashmir.
But the attitude of the main opposition the BJP takes the cake. The nuke deal is a culmination of the process began by A B Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh. Their opposition to the deal smacks of short-term opportunism to bring down the government by hook or by crook. It is a classic case of opposition for the sake of opposition.
India, facing Chinese encirclement on the sea and a rapidly Talibanising Pakistan in the west, needs American technology to defend against rogue missile attacks. By jeopardising the India-US partnership, the comrades and the BJP are putting the country's security in danger.
Colonel Dr Anil Athale was formerly Joint Director, War History division, Ministry of Defence, and author of the official history of the India-China war of 1962