The Guardian 8 March, 2006

Bush’s divisive India visit

Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against George W Bush and his policy of "divide and rule," as placards read, on his arrival in New Dehli on March 1. They left no doubt that he is the most repudiated President in the world. During Bush’s talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a number of nuclear and commercial cooperation agreements were signed.

Demonstrations took place in cities across India against the visit by the US leader The giant march in New Dehli was headed by artistic, literary, political, university and religious figures. More than 100,000 police were deployed, some of them armed "to avoid any breach of the peace". Security measures included electronic equipment, four helicopters and armoured limousines, transported a few weeks before from Washington.

One of the Bush administration’s aims is to drive a wedge between China and India, two of the fastest growing economies in the world. The nations have formed closer ties in recent years, both economically and politically, and the US recognises this as a threat to its global power and influence.

The nuclear and military agreements with India contribute to the building of an alliance on China’s southwest edge. On China’s southeast flank, the US is developing stronger military relations with Japan.

China was swift to stress that nuclear co-operation between India and the US "must conform with provisions of the international non-proliferation regime".

The US Defense Department confirmed these fears in a statement hailing the deal for opening a path for more American-Indian military cooperation. "Maritime security cooperation between the United States and India is important… The United States would like more exercises with the Indian navy to increase interoperability", the Defense Department said.

"The United States and India will soon sign an agreement to facilitate mutual logistic support during combined training, exercises, and disaster relief operations."

Mr Singh said India had finalised a plan to separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities, a move contingent on the deal going through the US Congress, which cannot be taken for granted. It is hardly consistent with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and runs contrary to the threats made to Iran over its nuclear energy program. The US has agreed to India keeping its nuclear program, including weapons.

Under the agreement, India will classify 14 of its 22 nuclear facilities as being for civilian use, and open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The remaining military facilities, including two, fast-breeder reactors that could produce fuel for weapons, will not be open to inspection.

The deal allows India to buy equipment and materials for only those new reactors that are to be used for civilian purposes.

One of the main reasons for the huge public opposition to the deal in India, which was once one of the leading forces in the non-aligned movement, is that it forges stronger military and political ties with the US and undermines its sovereignty. It does nothing to improve the security of India or the region, quite the opposite.

The accord would also allow India to build future breeder reactors and keep them outside international inspections. A fast-breeder reactor takes spent nuclear fuel and processes it for reuse as fuel for weapons.

Economic agreements

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) issued a statement on two of the Indo-US agreements: "Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agricultural Research and Education" and a Biotechnology Agreement. These the CPI(M) warns will have a vital bearing on more than 60 per cent of the Indian population.

Under the agricultural initiative, Monsanto and Wal Mart are set to decide the Indian agriculture research agenda, as they are on the governing board of this initiative.

"Unlike the science of green revolution that came from public domain science, today’s biotechnology revolution depends almost entirely on private domain science. Therefore, an agreement that ties India’s research institutions to Monsanto and other US MNCs [multinational corporations] means ensuring their dominance over India’s agriculture. The private sector will identify the research areas with the aim of rapid commercialisation.

"The Government of India has also kept the entire country in the dark on the terms of this agreement. According to reports, India seems prepared to accept Intellectual Property Rights terms that the Parliament had rejected last year. It is well known that the US in its science and technology agreements with third world countries pushes for IPRs flowing out of such agreements to accrue to the country with more stringent IPR rights. By this, all worldwide rights coming out of this initiative would belong to the US as their IPR regime offers patent holders rights to life forms, plants and seeds.

"There is also a threat to India and local communities losing the rights to indigenous genetic resources.

"The country has not been told what are the terms of the umbrella agreement signed in October last year. The parliament and the people must be told about these issues before any grandiose agricultural knowledge initiative is signed between the US and India", the CPI(M) statement concluded.

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