The Indo-US nuclear deal is in the news once more. After dithering for long, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is showing some resolve, but barely. In a sudden rush of developments, the meeting of the UPA-Left panel on the deal on Wednesday was postponed to 25 June.
It’s time the government decided which way it wants to go: the deal, or a few more months of dreary existence. Even if it jettisons the deal, the political arithmetic is decidedly against the government. It should think over this fact before taking any step.
There are other pressing factors: The deal’s shelf life is coterminus with that of the Bush administration. The latter has promised support for the deal till its last day, 20 January 2009. India needs to consider the consequences if the deal does not get through by that time. Any new US administration is likely to be much less enthusiastic about the deal, if not hostile to it. The anti-proliferation lobby and the “traditional” democrats already sense a kill given the political uncertainty surrounding the deal.
In such a situation, the UPA government should evaluate the choices it has: Sign the deal and lose the Left support or not sign the deal and see the Leftists engage in a bitter fight against the UPA at the hustings. The latter is a forgone conclusion given the history of animosity between the UPA and the Left, and the latter’s outlandish ideas about what India ought to do.
The choice where the government signs the deal and then faces elections has greater positive potential: Why not go for the deal and win the support of a big number of citizens who are tired of blackmail by the Left parties? This will also allow the government to exploit the “stability plank” and blame the Left for putting an end to the government. The UPA leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, have often spoken about the importance of the deal to India’s energy security. By signing the deal, they will recoup the political capital expended on the issue.
Politically, it’s imperative the government not arm the Left with the argument that the UPA died due to its own “internal contradictions”. The only way to avoid that ending is to see the deal through.
What’s more important: government or the deal? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org