February 01, 2015

PM Modi Promoting `Made in USA’, Not `Made in India’

EXPLOITING fully the servile attitude of this Modi government, being offered on a platter, US President Barack Obama, on his recent State visit to India as the guest of our 66th Republic Day Parade, got what he wanted from India to rejuvenate the beleaguered US economy. USA is simply unable to recover fully from the world capitalist crisis – a crisis that it had generated, in the first place, leading to the Wall Street collapse heralding the global financial meltdown in 2008. To assist the US economy in its recovery, the Modi government has agreed to vastly expand US access to Indian markets and resources for profit maximisation. 

President Obama also cemented India’s role as a subservient US ally to further the imperialist quest for global hegemony.  Specifically, towards furthering US efforts  to contain China, dominate the South Asian region and the Pacific waters.  On this basis, President Obama declared, prior to his departure from Delhi to Saudi Arabia to condole the death of the longstanding US ally, King Abdullah, that only the USA can be India’s “best partner”. 

Just before leaving India, President Obama, however, delivered his `deadly punch’ to PM Modi and the RSS/BJP government.  Speaking at a meeting that the US administration organised and calls a “town hall event” at Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium, he said that, “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines”.  In a clear reference to religious intolerance and hatred unleashed under this Modi government, President Obama invoked before his ghar vapasi, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to drive home the point that India’s strength lay, like the USA’s, in celebrating its vast diversity and not by breeding intolerance.  He went to the extent of recollecting Article 25 of the Indian Constitution that confers on all Indians the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. He said that in both our countries, “upholding the freedom of religion is the utmost responsibility of the government …also the responsibility of every person”.  He reminded the audience of the long struggle in the USA for achieving such a formal equality, recollecting that African Americans universally got the right in the USA to vote and participate in the elections only a year after he was born.  But for this, he said, he would not be president of USA today.

However, he remained silent on how `State terrorism’ sponsored by the USA systematically violates fundamental human rights across the globe, unscrupulously violating the independence and sovereignty of various countries through military interventions.  USA’s State terrorism feeds and activates `individual terrorism’ to deadly effect. Naturally, he was silent on the fact that the USA does not respect, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, the rights that it formally and legally confers on its citizens and unscrupulously violates universal human rights across the world.

The US president extracted from this Modi government access to Indian markets in the areas of selling US nuclear power reactors, enlarging vastly India’s purchase of US military equipments and selling to India new greener climate technologies. Additionally, Prime Minister Modi announced that India would be willing to accept all suggestions of the Indo-US Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights. This means that many essential commodities, particularly medicines, so essential for the vast mass of Indian people, will henceforth become very expensive denying a majority of us the right to basic health. 

Notwithstanding this, the media continues to be agog with the effervescence of the so-called Modi-Obama chemistry that continues to bubble over.  The centerpiece of this excitement is the so-called “breakthrough” achieved over the Indo-US nuclear deal.   At the joint media interaction, both President Obama and PM Modi declared satisfaction that the logjam over the civilian nuclear cooperation has ended. 

The Left parties opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal and the subsequent developments which led to the withdrawal of the support from the UPA-I government were based on very serious apprehensions concerning the consequences of this deal.  These relate to pressures to transform the Indian independent foreign policy positions towards those of a subordinate US ally; forcing India to further open up its economy to the profit maximisation of US corporations and India being drawn into USA’s strategic and military network as a steadfast accomplice. On all these counts, the agreements arrived at in this visit of President Obama, confirm these apprehensions that have serious negative consequences for India’s standing in the International Comity of Nations and our quest to achieve economic self-reliance. Unfortunately, this is being spearheaded by this very BJP under the Modi government which had joined the Left parties in opposing the nuclear deal and some other related aspects during the tenure of the UPA-I and II governments. 

The contentious issues between the USA and India, concerning the Civilian Nuclear Liability Bill passed by the Indian parliament, are three: First, after a long bitter struggle in the parliament, the opposition (with BJP stoutly supporting the Left parties) had succeeded in forcing the Manmohan Singh government  to insert Section 17(b)  allowing the liability in the case of an unfortunate nuclear accident to apply to the supplier as well.  Major US companies wishing to supply nuclear reactors have refused to accept any such liability placing the onus, even in the case of manufacturing  defects, upon the operator alone.  In India’s case, the operator, by law, can only be the State administered units under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), ie, government of India.  This has been detailed in Section 6 of this Act with an upper limit of Rs 1,500 crores.

The second was the US insistence on `tracking’ all supplies of nuclear equipment to India to ensure that they are not misused for nuclear weapon manufacture. USA has now, reportedly, accepted that International Atomic Energy Agency inspections as being sufficient. The third is regarding Clause 46 which gives the right to recourse to legal proceedings by a victim of a nuclear accident.  India has reportedly told the USA that the Indian Attorney General will give an assurance that no victim of nuclear accident can take recourse to legal proceedings against US corporates.  This is simply untenable under law.  How this assurance can be materialised remains unknown so far.

Notwithstanding the current euphoria, in the Obama-Modi joint statement, “Shared Efforts; Progress for All”, the civilian nuclear deal finds mention in a small para towards the end (para 43):  “Noting that the Contact Group set up in September 2014 to advance implementation of bilateral civil nuclear cooperation has met three times in December and January, the Leaders welcomed the understandings reached on the issue of civil nuclear liability and administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation, and looked forward to US-built nuclear reactors contributing to India’s  energy security at the earliest.”  No further details. 

When the civil nuclear cooperation was legislated in 2010, the then BJP supported the Left fully to incorporate the supplier’s liability. As the then leader of the opposition, Lok Sabha, today’s external affairs minister had castigated the Manmohan Singh government on this issue saying PM had “betrayed the country’s sovereignty for his own prestige”. Likewise, the BJP’s then leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, today’s finance minister, emphasised, being a lawyer himself, that clause  46 of this Bill empowers any victim of an accident to take recourse to the courts seeking greater compensation.  This cannot be denied to anybody under the universally accepted and enforceable “Law of Torts”, he said.  After the Modi government was formed, the external affairs minister said on September 8, 2014, “scandals like the Bhopal tragedy took place.  That is why suppliers liability is already included into the Nuclear Liability Act.  We will not pass any (revised Bill) …I think we will reiterate our stand before President Obama.  This time a strong government will be talking to Obama; that will make all the difference.” This “strong government” now appears to have completely surrendered to US pressures!

The Modi government has reportedly gone ahead to permit the circumvention of US manufactured nuclear reactors’ liability in the case of a nuclear accident.   Reports indicate that Section 17(b) of the Act will be interpreted in the Rules to enable the Indian State-owned insurance corporations to offer a cover of Rs 750 crores to cover supplier’s liability, while a government back-up will extend this to Rs 1,500 crores.  India will pay the premium for such an insurance policy to the foreign suppliers.  What does this mean?  Already the law caps the compensation to victims to be borne by the operator (Government of India) to Rs 1,500 crore.  If suppliers’ defective equipment is the cause for the accident, then this insurance policy will be redeemed to increase the limit by another Rs 1,500 crores.  The liability for paying compensation, hence, is completely to be covered by the Indian government and State-owned insurance companies, funded by the tax payers money.  US corporates get away without any liability even when it is proved that faulty equipment caused the accident!

Thus, this hyped “breakthrough” only suggests that India is succumbing to US pressures.  US corporates like GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse, eager to sell the nuclear reactors to India (as the USA has not placed any order for a nuclear power reactor since 1979 after the three-mile island accident) will eagerly lap up this “arrangement”.  This helps the US economy to recover, in the midst of the continuing global capitalistic crisis, at the expense of India and our tax payer’s money. 

This subterfuge is being justified in the name of India moving towards “clean energy”.  At the joint press conference, when asked if the US-China deal on climate change is pressurising India to work towards a similar deal, PM Modi replied saying that there is no pressure from USA or China, but there is pressure from India’s future generations to move towards cleaner energies.  The US-China deal is to result in the USA reducing its carbon emissions to 12 tons per capita by 2030 from the existing 16.4 while China will not increase its per capita beyond  12 from its current 7.1.  Without getting any such assurance from the US, India seems to willingly subordinate itself to such carbon emission reduction when our contribution to global cumulative emissions is a mere 2.2 per cent of the total (from years 1850 to 2000) while the US is responsible for 29.3 per cent.  By doing so, India will be forced to buy expensive `green technologies’ from US companies, again  helping US economic recovery. 

Even if one accepts  such a unilateral reduction of carbon emissions in India can only be achieved by moving towards  nuclear energy, the reactors we are buying from the US multinationals are not in operation anywhere else in the world today.  Hence, there is no assessment of the risk element  of such equipment.  Additionally, the cost of 1 MW by the American reactors, it is estimated to be around Rs 20 to 25 crores while thermal power projects with the latest carbon emission limiting technologies cost only Rs 5 to 7 crores. Thermal energy, if we set out to harness our potential, will be further less expensive. Even if the Modi government is willing to pay the extra costs for `clean energy’, do we need to buy foreign nuclear reactors? 

Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulation Board, argues that we have developed 700 MW pressurised heavy water reactors  which can be extended up to 900 to 1000 MW, costing only 30-50 per cent of the imported reactors. Instead of developing “Made in India”, Modi government is promoting US economic recovery.  And, this is at our expense with our tax payers money financing US economic recovery instead of being used for our people’s development.

Further, India’s indigenous nuclear technologies can be vastly improved by access to technology related to enriching natural uranium and re-processing spent fuel for plutonium extraction, essential to use our vast thorium deposits as fuel for nuclear energy, instead of importing expensive thorium.  Such technologies, known as ENR, were supposed to be available to India breaking our so-called `nuclear apartheid’ following the nuclear deal.  PM Manmohan Singh gave such an assurance that these technologies now will be available to us in the parliament (September 2008).  Within two months, however, under US pressure, the Nuclear Suppliers Group reframed their rules to deny ENR technologies to India!  Such is the US track record. 

There is also euphoria over the fact that  President Obama has pledged $4 billion to India in loans and investments that could unlock what he called the “much untapped potential” of business partnership between the two countries. See what this $4 billion consists of.  The US export-import bank will finance $1 billion worth of exports of US products to India.  US overseas private investment corporation will lend $1 billion to small, medium size enterprises in rural India to buy US technologies.  The US Trade and Development Agency would leverage $2 billion for renewable energy, ie, purchase of new US technologies by India. In other words, this so-called $4 billion `India Package’ is to promote US imports into India!

Thus, PM Modi has vastly now expanded Indian market access to US companies in nuclear energy, climate technologies and defence production (by renewing the Indo-US defence treaty for another decade) vastly contributing  to US economic recovery.  Additionally, it has willingly reduced India as a subordinate ally in furthering US strategic and military interests in South Asia and the Pacific Ocean regions.

PM Modi’s “(Made) Make in India” slogan is, thus, only to mislead the Indian people.  It is, in reality, promoting `Made in USA’ instead! Such propaganda masks this Modi government’s desire to also convert India into a subservient ally of US imperialism. 


(January 28, 2015)