Thursday, January 29, 2015

Electricity costing INR 12/unit: Modi-Obama nuclear breakthrough a bane for India?

A lot was said and is being said about the accomplishment of the recent India trip by US president Obama in terms of achieving the elusive win-win situation for the two largest democracies in the world.

While the New York Times was euphoric covering the surprising inclination of Modi to talk about China in a tone increasingly resembling that of US, there seems to be an evolving consensus among the mainstream media (MSM) outlets across the world that the trip has given an unprecedented momentum to the oft-riddled US-India relationship.

That in turn, is naturally expected to benefit both sides by nurturing trade--including the arms trade for which India is the number one customer in the world--thereby creating more jobs in the US and helping India to move forward with its ambitious development agenda.

As dust settles after the hysteric coverage of the visit in Indian media, the devil appears to be in the details.

While large scale investment and technology transfer from the US are crucial for India to move forward with its ambitious agenda of bringing the millions of people out from poverty, that may come at a (un)reasonable price.

Take this example: India badly needs electricity and other infrastructures to harvest the bounty of cheap labor thereby slashing the unemployment and tackling poverty. Beside hydropower--including a significant part to be potentially imported from neighbors like Bhutan and Nepal--India is counting on the nuclear power as a viable alternative. Much of the euphoria over the success of Obama's trip comes from the progress on implementing the earlier civilian nuclear deal between the two countries.

But what are the long term implications of the supposed breakthrough in the issue?

A brilliant piece by Nityanand Jayram in looks into the matter at a time when hysteria overwhelms the facts in the coverage of such a crucial issue.

The ‘breakthrough’ in Indo-US nuclear deal will bleed Indians every which way

Two recent unrelated events formed a subtle connection in my mind. On 25 January, India and the United States announced a “breakthrough” in negotiations to operationalise the long-stalled nuclear deal. On 26 January, eminent cartoonist R K Laxman, the creator of the much-loved “Common Man”, died. The Indian and American governments, and GE and Toshiba Westinghouse, see the “breakthrough” as cause for celebration. If American corporations are sufficiently convinced to follow through and supply nuclear power plants to India, the common man (and woman) – namely, Indian taxpayers, electricity consumers and communities that host the plants – may well get the wrong end of the stick.

Here’s why. The Indo-US civil nuclear deal was signed by George Bush and Manmohan Singh in 2008. As per the deal, India agreed to separate its civilian and military nuclear activity and open up the civilian part to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In return, the US offered to resume full nuclear trade with India, ending its nuclear ostracism.

Read the whole article in here