It was a roller coaster for Manmohan Singh at the time of going with the nuclear deal. When one looks at the negotiations between Indian and US officials, at every stage, it is India which has bowed down while it is the US which has given in. The question isn’t what has India gained but why the US is willing to give up so much for it, and what lies ahead for us. A cursory look at the 22-page 123 Agreement should tell you: India’s concerns with the draft were accommodated. The most difficult part for US officials to digest was that India wanted to retain spent fuel from the civilian reactors for its own use – the fear that we could yield the much needed uranium back into our strategic programme. It’s possible to look for countless reasons why the Bush administration has made the deal not so possible for us to refuse. From the US desire to expand its strategic area of influence to finding allies on its global expansionist policies to the need for new markets for its nuclear tech businesses, to its keenness to stop a possible sub-continental nuclear standoff, to its desire to disarm everybody else – there’s no end to what the US gains in big picture terms. What is more important is to realise that the deal is now a hard reality that India inevitably needs to be a part of. In any case, there isn’t much longer we could keep developing our programme on the meagre amounts of uranium we are allowed. The other part of this new age reality is that the rules of the game have changed. India is now part of an international-accountability regime. Therefore, the other side of the picture which we need to look at is that regardless of the text of the 123 says, our reactors under international purview will now be open for scrutiny on safety standards. For once, though, for a complicated bilateral agreement, the larger picture and the responsibilities that come with it are the bigger deal.
Md Ziyaullah Khan