The secrecy around the 123 agreement

…is largely to help the Bush administration push it through.

Imagine you are in the Bush administration that has invested political capital in the US-India nuclear accord. You also believe that the agreement is in the United States’s national interest. But you have long had the non-proliferation orthodoxy crying foul, the Hyde Act throwing up a potential deal breaker, and to make it worse a presidential campaign where every issue is a potential election issue. The Indians, on the other hand, are clearly prepared to walk away from the table if it cramps their strategic interests.

So when your negotiators hammer out a compromise, what’s your worst case outcome? Well, that it fails to win support in India, and faces opposition from any of the quarters at home. And what’s your second worst outcome? That India accepts it, but the usual domestic opponents oppose it.

And how would you try to improve your chances of avoiding the worst case (and achieving the second worst case, at least)?

By keeping the text of the document secret, at least until the Indian government has accepted it. By keeping it out of the local news, at least until the Indian government accepts it. So it is that although the compromise was struck—after high drama—on 21th July, and the Indian press published reams of reports and commentary on the subject last week, it is on 27th July, a full week later, that the Washington Post is reporting it.

Those Indians who have been demanding to see the text of the agreement to be really sure that the family silver has not been sold on the Potomac should put their faith in their government, and wait a wee bit longer. Once the US Congress votes on it though, secrecy can no longer be justified.

2 thoughts on “The secrecy around the 123 agreement”

  1. Nitin,

    Shouldnt the opposition know ? Atleast the whole of parliament must know, isnt it? (though the parliament is filled with illiterates and buffoons)..

    Also, what about the news reports – 1. We have effectively given up our right to test nukes 2. US can take back its fuel anytime it likes..


  2. Rediff reports that the text of the Agreement has been put up on the MEA website instead of being released officially “to avoid questioning from journalists.” However, I don;t think the Bush Administration went out of the way to keep the Agreement a secret…i’d think this was more in deference to the wishes of the Indian government and its desire to go through the motions of informing political parties in India about the content of the Agreement. That way, the response to the deal would be less media driven. On the US side, with the presidential elections picking up pace, everything else of note has had to take a back seat. Something as arcane as the 123 Agreement is not going to draw atention any time soon. Even the Washington Post Article was a feed from AP, from what I can figure out

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