The Nuclear deal between Indian PM Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama is reminding of the days of British Empire and the treachery India witnessed during that colonial period. Ironically, the US, which is very keen to sell nuclear fuel to India, has not set up a single nuclear power plant back home in last four decades apprehending disasters.
With the incumbent government agreeing on all the conditions the US presented even before the finalization of the civil nuclear energy deal without realizing its future ramifications. The relevance of the entire deal has been put at stake because either the government failed to look into the future of its citizens and their safety or hurriedly sealed the deal to invite more and more foreign direct investments in the country.
Besides, the US has not yet come out with a time-frame as to when India will become a member of elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a global body that deals with the issues relating to nuclear energy.
A comprehensive and serious debate is currently underway in India over whether or not the federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has compromised with country's national interests while finalizing much-published civil nuclear energy deal with the United States during the recent visit of US President Barack Obama to India. American companies willing to do nuclear energy business in India have been let off of any compensation responsibility in the event of any nuclear power plant event.
The Modi government made an all-in effort for the finalization of the deal despite the fact that the government succumbed to the pressure from the US suppliers that in the case of an accident at the plants, India's state-run insurance agencies would be responsible for the compensation to the victims and not the foreign companies. In other words another Bhopal gas leak tragedy is in the making.
The Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement sealed during US President Obama's visit to India during the Republic Day Celebrations, which Modi government has been claiming as one of its 'major achievements' is nothing but continuation of previous United Progressive Alliance government that was led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Singh had picked up threads from his predecessor, Atal Behari Vajpayee and entered into signing the initial pact that followed by tight bargaining between the top officials of the two countries. The landmark deal hit road-blocks several times as the previous government wanted commitment from the US on the issue of accident compensation, which the US side was deliberately avoiding. The negotiations stalled at a level when Singh government refused to budge on the contentious issue a few months before the last year general elections.
The main contentious point the previous government pushed through was that the foreign company suppliers should be held accountable for any eventuality and thus pay the just compensation amount at par with the Indian and global standards. This was not agreeable to the US side and subsequently no breakthrough was made. Meanwhile, general elections held in India and a new dispensation headed by BJP came to power in India.
The National Democratic Alliance government, a corporate friendly government, then immediately after completion of formalities of swearing in rushed in to please both the domestic and global corporate giants and in a haste agreed to the American companies demand of freeing them of the just compensation clause that the previous government had made and integral part of negotiations with the US officials.
The Communists had tried to pull down the UPA-I government on the India-US Civilian Nuclear Deal and in particular on the issue of unlimited liabilities, which were reduced by Singh government to limited liabilities. Even the principle opposition BJP was opposed to this move and disrupted the proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament demanding the government fix unlimited responsibilities in case of an accident.
The lawmakers belonging to the BJP had frequently cited the example of Bhopal gas tragedy to drive home their point and after coming to power this very party did exactly the same even before the formal conclusion of official-level talks it agreed to the US demand of no external liability.
In 2009 after returning to power with more seats the UPA-II set into motion a process of setting up 10 nuclear power plants, which were estimated to generate a total of 33,564 megawatt of nuclear power. The UPA government decided to go ahead with the process despite constraints that the US suppliers were not keen on supplying necessary equipment required for the plants as they wanted to avoid the liability clause. They wanted Indian insurance companies to pay for the compensation, which the then government refused to oblige. Subsequently, the final sealing of the deal was put on hold once it hit this major road-block.
The campaign against the limited liabilities back home took a sharp turn in the aftermath of nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan. At first, a comprehensive debate started in Japan about the use of nuclear power for the generation of energy. A majority of experts and intellectuals argued that Japan should abandon the generation of power through nuclear means and go back to the conventional methods of power generation.
Another debate on the same line was initiated by some activists and non-governmental organizations that almost stalled Russian-backed atomic plant at southern Kudunkulam mounting pressure on the then government to immediately scrap the plant. The government after threat from Russian somehow managed the situation. The anti-limited campaign's argument centered on the fact that Fukushima accident happened because of faulty equipment used in the nuclear power plant.
Under the latest agreement the liability of nuclear equipment supply company has been fixed at Rs. 1500 crore, whereas Japan has estimated a cost of Rs. 12, 00000 crore to clear the areas affected by radioactivity surrounding Fukushmia nuclear power plant. This is nothing but a clear case of gross injustice done by Modi government for generations to come.
The NDA government has also been making a tall claim that way for nuclear power generation in India is now clear as the Obama-administration has abandoned one more condition of monitoring the usage of nuclear energy supply for more than one time on the ground for whether or not it is being for other purposes like military.
The US has now agreed that the International Atomic Energy Agency, an international nuclear watchdog will monitor the use of nuclear fuel by India. Since, IAEA is full of NATO allies, this agreement holds no differences because at any point of time the US can use influence over IAEA and put India in the dock.
From the day India entered into negotiations with the US over the civil nuclear energy pact, it has made it clear that as a sovereign country it has the right to buy nuclear fuel from any country it finds suitable. During the course of talks over the deal the US was made to see reason behind India's opposition to this particular condition. Hence, there is nothing new in this that the NDA government is boasting of. There has also been a serious debate making the rounds over nuclear power being the cheapest power available in the world over.
The protagonists for use of nuclear power argue that it is the cheaper power available. However, the fact remains that India had assigned a French company the work of nuclear power generation in Maharashtra and proposed to buy power generated through this plant at the cost of Rs. 6.50 per unit, which the company refused saying it is not affordable.
The French company had argued that generation of power would cost at the rate of Rs. 9 per unit. On the other hand, the power generated through coal costs Rs 3.5 per unit, which is much cheaper than nuclear power.