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India’s communists have always opposed India’s strategic embrace of the U.S.
It believes that the U.S. is a hegemonic, deeply destabilizing power and India cannot become a close ally of Washington without sacrificing or compromising its policy independence and narrowing its room for manoeuvre in world affairs.
Second, the left argues that the text of the "123 agreement" differs significantly from the statements that Singh made in Parliament, promising that it would address all of India's concerns about full civilian nuclear cooperation with the U.S. and autonomy for the Indian nuclear programme.
The left says there are specific differences between the agreement and a law passed last December in the U.S. Congress as a prelude to "123", called the Henry J Hyde Act. The act mandates annual certification by the U.S. President that India is behaving in conformity with American foreign policy objectives, and also imposes a few other conditions that India said were not acceptable to it.
According to the left, the Hyde Act will prevail over the "123" agreement and can be used arbitrarily to terminate nuclear cooperation with India.
The act, it says, falls short of guaranteeing full-scale nuclear commerce with India, which was promised when Singh and President George W Bush inked the deal in July 2005. For instance, the U.S. will not export uranium enrichment or fuel reprocessing technologies to India.
The act, argue the communists, will erode India's sovereign decision-making in respect of its nuclear programme. Since the "123 agreement" essentially derives from the Act, it must be opposed.
In addition, the left is concerned at the likely impact of "123" on India’s traditional advocacy of universal nuclear disarmament. It says that by getting "accommodated in a U.S.-led unequal nuclear order", India’s leading role in championing nuclear disarmament "as a major country of the non-aligned community" will be given "the go-by".
The left also says that it is "debatable" whether nuclear power, which would be promoted under the U.S.-India deal, is a sustainable solution to India's energy problem.
"The bulk of the left’s current opposition to the agreement derives from procedural arguments (about Singh’s assurances to Parliament), and from differences between its text and what was promised in July 2005, and again in March and August last year," says M.V. Ramana, a physicist and energy expert attached to the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Bangalore told IPS.
The present position of the left parties significantly differs from its original stand on the U.S.-India nuclear deal two years ago, which emphasised its negative consequences for India's advocacy of global nuclear disarmament.
For decades, said the left parties in July 2005, India "was …committed to nuclear disarmament… The BJP-led government had begun the journey of accepting a junior partnership of the U.S. in return for a de facto recognition as a nuclear weapon-state… The current agreement marks an end to India’s nuclear disarmament policy".
Nevertheless, the communists have decided not to press for a vote on the "123 agreement" under Parliament's rules of procedure, unlike most of the non-UPA parties. A negative vote could lead to the fall of the Manmohan Singh government.
"The left is loath to topple the UPA government because it fears that that will pave the way for a return of the BJP," says Achin Vanaik, a professor of international relations and global politics at Delhi university.