December 19, 2006

The two sides of the nuclear deal

This report originally aired on CNN-IBN on December 19, 2006.

New Delhi: Never before has a piece of US legislation been so analysed in India. The Hyde Act on Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation has got its share of ardent supporters and fierce critics both. Some former and serving nuclear scientists believe the deal compromises on India's nuclear weapons programme.

"If you want to bring the benefit of nuclear power, you must have an indigenous programme. The resources must be indigenous, the technology must be indigenous so that it can grow," says PK Iyengar, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission.

Many in the Opposition as well as the UPA's Communist allies, who have historically opposed closer Indian ties with the United States, say it compromises India's foreign policy.

"We are binding ourselves to humiliating conditions and there are people applauding this in the Parliament also," says LK Advani, senior BJP leader who has been in the forefront of the group opposing the nuclear deal.

Proponents of the deal – right from the Prime Minister down to the average Congressman – have cited the need for energy security, the environmental benefits and most importantly access to high technology, something India has been denied for more than 30 years.

"I do believe if we have access to international trade and nuclear technologies, equipment that will widen our development options with regard to our energy supplies," argues Manmohan Singh.

Both the Indian and international business communities have also largely welcomed the deal.

"If this agreement allows India to ahead full-speed using nuclear energy to create power, we should welcome that," says Lord Meghnad Desai, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance.

There are still miles to go before India can reap the benefits of the nuclear deal. But the PM has already done much to end India's nuclear isolation, much like he ended India's economic isolation 15 years ago.