Sunday, September 7, 2008
The deal is done. And it’s a big deal for India. It has gained unique status as the only nuclear weapons power to be allowed global nuclear commerce without signing either the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, until now a precondition for entering the elite nuclear club. When the NSG ‘‘adjusted its guidelines’’ for India on Saturday, after 76 hours of high drama, it marked a delicious irony. It came into being 34 years ago as a response to India’s 1974 Pokharan test and yet, on Saturday, the NSG was bending its rules to accommodate India’s nuclear ambitions. The NSG’s approval was also Manmohan Singh’s moment. The Prime Minister, who had quietly worked out the architecture of the Indo-US nuclear deal with US President George Bush, made history on Saturday by salvaging the agreement, while staving off the threat to his government and political career. Singh described the NSG waiver as a ‘‘forwardlooking and momentous decision’’. Bush praised Singh for his ‘‘strong leadership’’ in ensuring success at Vienna. Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said the waiver gives India access to full civilian nuclear cooperation with the rest of the world. The text of the waiver is yet to be made public. The deal will not just give India access to nuclear fissile material and technology to mount a credible nuclear energy programme, it will also open up certain key high-tech industries such as pharma, IT, space and defence. But the implications go much beyond energy and technology. In strategic terms, it now brings India closer to the US and several key European countries. At the same time, it might bring a certain frostiness to India’s relations with China as expected after Beijing’s sudden objections in Vienna to the waiver. Even so, Beijing formally welcomed New Delhi to the nuclear club after the NSG finally nodded it through. The NSG’s exception for India did not come easily but happened because of recognition for India as an emerging power with a stable democratic system, growing market economy and business appeal. India’s earlier unilateral moratorium to nuclear testing — made by the Vajpayee government and cited by foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday morning — helped winning over the last naysayers. WHAT IT MEANS? UNIQUE STATUS: Ends 34-year nuclear isolation following 1974 Pokharan test. India now gets N-technology, keeps its nuclear program, doesn’t sign NPT, CTBT N-MAINSTREAM: India can carry out nuclear trade, gets options for nuclear power and access to sensitive hi-tech that serves industry but is also used for nuclear technology; will help sectors like IT, space, pharma, defence, manufacturing RISING POWER: Shows India as an emerging power. Waiver also came as India seen as a stable democracy and growing market economy STRATEGIC SHIFT: India comes closer to the US. As also France, Germany, UK, other European countries, Russia, Japan, Australia. Indo-China ties could get frosty GREAT DIVIDE: De-hyphenation with Pak complete. India now in category of responsible N-powers with impeccable non-proliferation record WHAT NEXT? US Congress expected to take up Indo-US 123 pact when it meets on Monday. It must be approved by Sept 28, when the session ends Bush expected to ask Congress to skip mandatory 30-day period required for putting up pact for approval. Would like to see it through without re-look Both sides may sign pact when PM goes to US at month’s end. India will then sign similar pacts with other N-suppliers POWERING AHEAD ALL EYES NOW ON US CONGRESS Vienna: With the NSG crossed, the scene will shift to the US for the final ratification of the Indo-US nuclear civil cooperation agreement by an up-down vote of the US Congress which meets on Monday. The Bush administration is expected to persuade American lawmakers to pass the pact before the session ends by September 26 by not insisting on the mandatory 30-day session period required to present the agreement for approval. If all goes well, Manmohan Singh will sign the agreement with President Bush in Washington towards the end of the month. Back to the NSG’s decision, it came Saturday morning after two days of bruising diplomacy that saw the last of the conscientious objectors wilting under sustained US pressure. Six of the last objectors — Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Netherlands and Switzerland — relented after India went the extra mile to reassure them about its nonproliferation commitments, and the US, France and UK leaned on them. Until Friday night, when the NSG sat, exhausted through round after round of talks until 2.30 am, two things happened. A modification was made in the waiver text that had been circulating for a week, but with which some countries still had problems. Here, India’s statement earlier in the day came in handy, and a link was made between India’s commitments and the adjustment of the guidelines.