BJP and the nuclear deal

Still blind to the political advantage

The BJP’s position on the US-India civilian nuclear agreement can be described in three words: “Oh, come on!”

Having painted itself into the anti-deal corner, the BJP finds itself incapable to climb out of the hole despite the many lifelines it has been thrown. First L K Advani appeared to signal that the party might find a way of supporting the government on the deal. Then came Brajesh Mishra’s remarks and the subtle manner in which Jaswant Singh distanced the party from them. What is unfortunate is that the BJP leadership appears to be content taking the apparently less risky way out, rather than distinguish itself through a bold move in the national interest.

It appears to be blind to the political advantage it can acquire by going to the electorate as the party that first set the stage for and then saved the deal. It appears to have underestimated the political advantage of demonstrating that it is not on the same side as the anti-national Communists.

Arundhati Ghose hopes that “it should not be beyond the abilities of our politicians too to find a political solution out of the present logjam.” The BJP leadership appears blind to the political advantage of proving her right.

10 thoughts on “BJP and the nuclear deal”

  1. Everything is fine, but is there a document on the web or a news conference or a debate where the nuclear deal has correctly been discussed? Perhaps the BJP are confused as everyone else. Should we blame them as well?

  2. Hi Nitin,

    You seem to think the N-deal is definitiely in national interest. Wonder how you arrived at such a conclusion. My own opinion of the N-deal has wavered between the pro-to the anti-deal camps as new info kept coming in.

    Wonder what made you decide the deal is a good one.

    At the moment, it does seem like the deal is a bad one for us. IMVHO, of course.

  3. Sud,

    There have been several posts on this in the past. I’d refer you to this one and this issue of Pragati.


    Quite the contrary. The BJP’s leadership has no dearth of information on this matter. They don’t need to read articles like the rest of us—they have access to the people who not only know such things intricately, but are actually involved in working on the issues on a professional basis. Unless they take the view that it is worth sacrificing energy security for the theoretical pursuit of an open-ended nuclear arsenal, the equation is pretty clear.

  4. “It appears to be blind to the political advantage it can acquire by going to the electorate as the party that first set the stage for and then saved the deal. It appears to have underestimated the political advantage of demonstrating that it is not on the same side as the anti-national Communists.”

    Well, one can argue that the communists are on BJP’s side; they were the ones against nuclear tests and overt nuclearization, something that would become possible with this deal- “cap, rollback and eliminate.”

    There isn’t much political advantage in it for BJP either, because the communists aren’t strong anywhere else except in two states. (Aside, I am puzzled as to how the Bengalis and Keralites keep returning these Chinamen to our parliament. Has their patriotism died?)

    I find the approach in this post and similar columns by other analysts needlessly condescending. Any serious BJP official is hardly going to be persuaded by such rhetorical cajoling. Replace the reference to BJP in the first three lines to the other side and the argument can be turned on its head.

    As for being bold and brave: I wonder why the proponents of deal are so eager, rather desperate, to share the laurels? Why not claim the medals for yourselves? In a cut-throat world where success has many fathers there chivalry seems out of order. 🙂

  5. How US gains if the nuclear deal goes through ??

    Don’t say that it helps it’s non-NATO ally.

  6. Nitin,
    Access to documents or not, thinking that nuclear energy will contribute significantly is a flawed stance, especially since our energy needs is all set to double in the next decade. Contrast that with how much energy is being supplied by nuclear right now with how much will it supply a decade from now (when our energy demands have doubled) and it makes little sense as to why go so much after nuclear deal in the first place.

    And by the way, we are supposed to read your documents over the BJPs negation because, you have the complete knowledge to make a decision. Quite ambitious, must I say. 🙂

  7. “It appears to be blind to the political advantage it can acquire by going to the electorate as the party that first set the stage for and then saved the deal.”

    There is no political advantage to be had. Looks like BJP as a party is fine with its position. It’s time the corrupt Congress that really has nothing else to show for in its 4 year rule – other than corruption of the good old Indira days, of course, and rising prices – that wants the deal. Even if BJP wants the deal, it shouldn’t do it now and give a legacy to Manmohan and Congress who wants to have it both ways by sleeping with commies.

    I think it’s time for Ghose and others to let go of the subject until elections are over.

  8. Nitin,

    Some vague thoughts.. I am not sure if the BJP can get much credit for the deal *now*. They should have positioned themselves from the beginning as the party that started negotiating the deal, and should have reserved judgment on this version of the deal by saying that they’ll wait for all the details. That would have given them a lot of flexibility to position themselves correctly as events unfolded.

    I am, of course, saying this with the benefit of hindsight. As a national political party, I would have expected BJP to have better foresight. Unfortunately, the post-2004 BJP has becoming a rather strange and inefficient party at the national stage. With Brajesh Mishra getting disowned, BJP has only one way to position itself – against the deal. Since that does not go well with their real position, I think they wouldn’t be talking much about the deal during the elections.

    There is another angle to BJP’s opposition, which I first encountered on Maverick’s blog: The Hyde Act is a constraint on what US – and US companies – can do. This makes the NRI-base rather uncomfortable with the deal, because their commercial interests are directly affected by American domestic laws. Since the NRI-base is one of the major pillars of BJP’s support…

    I haven’t had the time to think much about what the Hyde Act means for American companies, because I’d only ever thought about what it means for India.. so I’ll just put this angle here without any personal comment on it.


    Had the political proponents of the deal been amenable (leave aside eager etc.) to “share the laurels”, the deal would probably have gone through by now.

    I have a feeling that the deal would still go through. I think the Congress is just trying to get the timing (of announcing elections) right. Once the negotiations with IAEA and perhaps NSG are completed behind the scenes, signing it would be a mere formality. The Congress would then have the choice of either signing it and taking credit or letting the deal be signed by the next government (probably BJP). If the Congress does decide to sign the deal, the Left can be counted upon to withdraw support. That’ll allow Congress to take patriotic umbrage in its campaign. And you can be sure that the Pay Commission stuff would also be finalized and accepted with the election timing in mind.

  9. AFAIK and from all publicly available sources, the US is unwilling to permitU reprocessing beyond 20% enrichment. Thats useless for us. Our Thorium based system needs super-enrichment of U ore in the PHWR stage. It was the reason why Dr. Anil Kakodkar (the DAE boss) was against the deal when it was announced on 18 June, 2006. Nothing seems to have changed in the US’s position since then though AK seems to have, at least publicly, changed his stance.

    And folks, plz distinguish between the nationalist opposition to the deal (the BJP’s) and the anti-nationalist one (the commie parties). Lumping them together to score rhetorical points is misleading and dangerous.

    JMTPs etc. Have a nice day, all.

  10. SumneNeeve,

    I would humbly submit that I am adequately informed about the project. Not complete, but adequate.

    Regarding your point about its contribution to the energy mix: we need all the sources that are available. I’m planning a deeper essay on this for a later date, but a quick look at the energy supply and demand projections tells you that we need as many sources (both for sufficiency and for diversity) as we can get. So to push the argument to the extreme (as some have done) and project nuclear energy as a panacea is misleading and oversimplistic.


    This blog’s reverence or respect for personalities and parties is linked to their respect for India’s national interests.


    You miss the point about fungibility. The imported fuel will be (and must be) used only for generating nuclear power. So what will we do with the fuel we secure within the country and from non-members of the NSG, or countries with who we develop other relationships, is left as an exercise to the reader.

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