The Public spotlight that was on the Indo-US nuclear deal until it was passed by the US Congress and signed by President Bush into law in December last year has dissipated. But it is now that the real drudge work to hammer out an 123 agreement, getting NSG approval and an India specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA has to be done.
Brahma Chellaney in an op-ed piece titled Long-Maul Exercise in The Asian Age analyses the action that is taking place behind the scenes.
The controversial US-India nuclear deal may not be in the news these days but it quietly continues to ferment new issues. Even as America and its friends persist with their hard sell of the deal, increasing doubts about the wisdom and costs of pushing ahead with it on terms set by the US Congress have gripped the Indian establishment.
The projected timeframe for stitching up the final deal continues to slip. When the agreement-in-principle was unveiled on July 18, 2005, it was sanguinely claimed by both sides that by spring of 2006, the deal would take effect. Then when the Hyde Act was passed, US officials voiced optimism that the final deal would be before Congress by July 2007.
Now Washington has further revised the deadline to late 2007 or early 2008. Even that seems overly optimistic when one bears in mind that after almost 20 months, only the first of the five phases has been completed to clinch the final deal. There is still a long road ahead for the two sides to traverse.
Let’s not forget that the US-China nuclear deal, signed in 1984, took nearly 14 years to come into force, and another nine years thereafter for Beijing to place its first import order for US reactors. The US-India deal, in fact, involves more processes and complicating factors. Long after the original actors involved in the July 18, 2005, accord have faded into history, India would still be grappling with the deal-related issues.
Indeed the deal’s main benefit for India remains the symbolically important message of July 18, 2005 that the United States, reversing a three-decade punitive approach toward India, has embraced it as a “responsible” nuclear state.In other words, India is already savouring the main gain from the deal.
The actual incentive proffered by the US — the lifting of civil nuclear sanctions — is of less significance because high-priced imported commercial power reactors can play only a marginal role in meeting India’s energy needs.