Let the National Interest Prevail (JULY 02, 2008)


Let the National Interest Prevail

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

Of late, Indian Muslims are in the news again. For the wrong reason, as usual. They are being held hostage to the natural and understandable differences between different political parties on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Muslims are being frequently referred to by parties sympathetic to the cause of the minorities and other weaker sections as well as by BJP, which is patently hostile to these sections. Most of the time Muslims are being dragged in unnecessarily.

Just to clear the air, we would like to assert that while most other sections have been voting on considerations of caste, community, region (and even religion), Muslims have, since Independence, consistently voted in national interest, without any other consideration.

The point is, we know what the national interest is, as defined by the Constitution and as understood by the silent majority of this country. We know that the most vocal classes are not necessarily the most patriotic. We don't have to be tutored by the chatterati about national interest.

We are amused to read a statement by Mr. Venkiah Naidu of BJP in the newspapers saying that the talk of Muslims being opposed to the nuke deal is irrelevant. He goes on to pontificate that the national interest is above Hindu, Muslim or Christian considerations. Well said. We do agree.

However, we also happen to wonder as to who is speaking such profound truth. It seems with the changing times even BJP is changing. At least, apparently. Only a few years ago when Mr Lal Krishna Advani was on his great (motorised) rath yatra on way to Ayodhya for Babri Masjid demolition he was reminded that such a hate-filled, violence-ridden exercise was not in the national interest. Mr Advani said, "But it is in the party's interest".

Mr. Naidu and his party should be the last to talk about national interest. They have, with their divisive politics, forfeited the right to talk about it. That leaves us with the "secular" parties that are committed to a polity that conforms to the august Constitution.

We regard the non-NDA political formations as more concerned about the true national interest. We believe the Left, Congress, SP and others are more genuinely concerned about it. Yet, we don't understand why somebody from the CPM should argue with the SP that voting in favour of the nuke deal will alienate Muslims. Mr Karat has rightly tried to limit the damage by clarifying that it was a single individual's opinion, not CPM's. That should close the issue of Muslim annoyance.

Let us be clear that the deal, if it is ratified by a majority of Parliament, would be acceptable to the whole country, Muslims included. However, before that we have to make sure that we are not being pushed into a commitment that is primarily meant to serve the interests of a decaying Western nuclear-energy industry. We have also to make sure that we do not become a party to the energy politics (nuclear, oil, coal, gas and renewable) of the West. This politics has virtually destroyed the world.

Already our experts have pointed out that the group of nuclear-fuel supplying countries have not proven to be reliable in the past and, one way or the other, we are likely to be trapped into commitments that will force us to accept intrusive inspections by outsiders. In the not so distant past we have seen a reading of the nuclear agreement being touted in Washington, which is significantly different from our understanding of it. These are not Muslim worries, but genuine national concerns.

A number of questions raised by experts in the past have not satisfactorily been answered by the deal supporters. And, let there be no doubt that we don't regard the people who question the deal as a bunch of anti-nationals. In fact, it is the other way round: those who resist being arm-twisted into a deal of far-reaching consequences only want to make sure that we don't barter away our national interest in a hurry, to regret at leisure.

So, what is the bottom line? As far as most Indian Muslims are concerned, any decision by a majority in our national Parliament will be acceptable to us. Nobody would ask any questions after that.  g


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