The controversy swirling around the Kudankulam nuclear power plant has become the stuff of seasoned ‘Russia hands’ in the community of American publicists and analysts. Almost as a riposte to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s allegation – that sources in the US are funding the agitation in India against Kalpakkam NPP — John Daly of Johns Hopkins University has joined issue, asserting that the protestors at Kudankulam are actually agitating against a duplicitous Indian government.
Daly doesn’t single out our PM for direct reference but the implication is that the PM is obfuscating the real issue. Curiously, Daly is not a specialist on India but is trained on Russian studies. He is a seasoned, prolific writer on Russia and his writings are imbued with the spirit of the Cold War (although the Soviet Union is no more).
I’ve relied on him over the years as a steady publicist of the contemporary American perspectives and as a dependable polemist of the ups and downs of US-Russia relationship (which has, by the way, run into serious difficulty in the recent months after the brief respite of Barack Obama’s ‘reset’), from Washington’s viewpoint of the polemics.
Daly alleges that the Indian authorities are patently dishonest about the nuclear safety standards in the country and employees of Kalpakkam nuclear centre died of bone cancer due to excessive radiation but GOI did a cover-up until someone ferreted out the info via RTI [Right to Information]. Daly also alleges that the Manmohan Singh government is pressing ahead with its robust programme to set up nuclear power plants with scant regard for safety standards.
In an article titled The darker Reality of India’s Nuclear Power Goals, Daly takes the Manmohan Singh government to task. In conclusion, Daly notes approvingly that “opposition to India’s nuclear power programme is growing, most notably at Kudankulam.” He writes:
“Accordingly, given the projected scope of India’s proposed nuclear future, the country [India] may well prove to be either the salvation or graveyard of nuclear power worldwide. And one can only wonder what other reports [than on Kalpakkam] the DAE [Department of Atomic Energy in Delhi] is sitting on. While no doubt all Indians without electricity would like a light bulb, its appeal is considerably limited if it is hanging over one’s hospital bed from now as one slowly expires from radiation-induced cancer. Accordingly, the fishermen protesting the Kudankulam NPP could be doing their fellow countrymen a greater service than they currently realize.”
By the way, Daly is an old associate of Frederick Starr, who is the doyen of the ‘great game’ in Central Asia aimed at ‘containing’ Russia. The New Silk Road project, which the Barack Obama administration is currently pushing — and India is apparently enthusiastically endorsing — is, ironically enough, Starr’s original brainwave aimed at ‘liberating’ the Central Asian states from the orbit of Russian influence. (Another glaring instance of the ‘ad-hocism’ of India’s regional polices, bereft of long-term thinking.)
Daly it was, incidentally, who founded the journal known as The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, which all keen observers of the politics of Russia’s ‘near abroad’ would know, is a diligent flag carrier of the US’ public diplomacy on Russia and Central Asia.
It’s a small world, isn’t it? PM Manmohan Singh apparently treaded on some very sensitive turf. The guarded remarks by the US ambassador
to India Peter Burleigh were carefully-worded and probably betrayed the discomfiture felt in Washington that PM Manmohan Singh somehow got wind of info that he wasn’t supposed to know.
Interestingly, could it be that — as Daly hinted — there are skeletons in the DAE cupboard regarding ‘nuclear accidents’ and so on — which the Americans would know but the Indian public wouldn’t? Daly stops just short of suggesting that there could be incriminating materials about the functioning of the Indian nuclear establishment in the possession of the Americans.
Daly implies that the ‘international community’ would have a say on India’s nuclear safety standards. Call it ‘nuclear blackmail’ or what you will, but Daly’s attack is a brilliant piece of digression, which of course is the best form of counter-attack. Daly’s commentary has appeared in a prestigious online journal specialising on energy issues, which circulates among opinion-makers in the West.
Yet, he dances around the key issue: Did someone in America actually finance the agitation in Kudankulam? If there is such nexus, did the USG know about it? Of course, Burleigh is hopefully ascertaining the ‘facts’ for us from his Hqs.
The thrust of Daly’s argument is that the Manmohan Singh government should freeze the Kudankulam NPP, leave alone go ahead and negotiate more contracts with the Russian companies for Kudankulam 3 and 4.
Of course, he doesn’t link all this with the prevailing tragi-comic situation that under the framework of the US-India nuclear deal of 2008, the American nuclear nuclear companies are yet to secure any lucrative business in selling reactors to India, while Russia and India are cruising along as long-lost partners. Sour grapes? Read Daly here