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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
How the N-deal will help India grow by 10%
July 27, 2006
Despite the United States House of Representatives approving the India-US nuclear deal by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday, the United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi is shaken by the protests from India's Opposition parties.
Indians are clearly vertically divided on the issue of its actual benefits to India. But the importance of the historic diplomatic occasion cannot be undermined because the UPA government has advocated, negotiated and politically fought for the agreement without any rethinking since it came to power in 2004.
Despite the debate and opposition to the nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has shown a single-minded determination to see it through. The prime minister has personally identified with the process and stood tough throughout the acrimonious debate. He stood by his conviction that India-US nuclear cooperation would benefit India.
"The prime minister is a very determined man, don't get him wrong," a high-ranking diplomat at the ministry of external affairs told rediff.com after India and the United States agreed to conthe deal during US President's George W Bush's visit to India.
On eve of the US House of Representatives taking up the resolution to vote, a senior Indian diplomat, well-versed with the negotiations, shared his vision with rediff.com:
When asked about Dr Singh's contribution to the negotiations with the US team lead by Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, he said, "We saw that once Dr Singh takes a decision he keeps a tight focus on the goal. Then he takes the longest, treacherous, slowest and tiresome road to reach there. He has patience to strike a deal by taking a time-consuming approach."
When asked who else should get credit besides Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who led the Indian negotiations, the diplomat said, "National Security Adviser M K Narayanan worked round the clock when the ministry of external affairs and the Atomic Energy Commission had issues to resolve. Without his rock solid support, the negotiations would have failed. Many times people have gone to his office at odd hours to solve complex issues."
Talking about the US side, the diplomat said, "Besides President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's steadfast support, Burns must be singled out -- he was thoroughly professional and cool. He never lost his temper and was unruffled and cool."
He also said that US National Security AdvisEr Stephen Hadley and the Counsellor in the State Department, Philip Zelikow, who performed as the point person for India-US relations, played significant roles.
Zelikow, executive director, 9/11 Commission, now advises Dr Rice on key policy issues.
When asked about the most difficult moments in the long drawn negotiations, the diplomat said, "The Americans could not understand our position. Many US officers had no idea of our internal pressures and demands. We had to tell them to see things from an Indian perspective."
"The Americans are unable to understand the politics of scarcity! They don't sometime give margins in negotiations. At every point we reminded them that we are dealing with the issue (nuclear power for India) with which national pride is linked."
"We explained them that our scientists have worked hard and are emotional. We had to explain domestic protests and reactions," the diplomat said.
"It is said that we pulled something out of nothing. Those who are unhappy about ongoing developments should know that Indian foreign policy had lagged behind since economic reforms began in India in 1992," he said.
In an interesting revelation, the diplomat said, "I would say the things changed in a major way in September 2004, when Dr Singh met President Bush in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations Security Council session. That was no less important than July 18, 2005 (when the two leaders in Washington, DC)."
After the New York meeting, Dr Singh told a press conference in New York on September 24, My meeting with President Bush on September 21 was a very important event in my programme here. While our discussions covered many issues, the most important were our common commitment to combat terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related global threats. My endeavour, which I believe is reciprocated fully by President Bush, is to build a partnership of co-operation and trust between our two countries."
In retrospect, the diplomat said that the Next Step in Strategic Partnership was an important diplomatic exercise without which there would have not been the July 18 agreement
At the press conference, in response to rediff.com's Aziz Haniffa's question on the implementation of Phase-I of the NSSP, Dr Singh had said, "As far as the Next Step in Strategic Partnership is concerned there has been, ever since our government came into power, intensive discussions between the two governments. The fact that the first phase has been accomplished means that some of our important entities like the Indian Space and Research Organisation will be off restricted embargo lists. That certainly is a new beginning in the promotion of flows of high technology to our country."
Dipomatic sources claim that following that visit, Press Note 18 (An FDI policy that required a foreign company in a joint venture with an Indian company to take the local partner's permission to get into other wholly owned ventures) was abolished, the open skies policy was introduced and the Weapons of Mass Destruction law was passed by Parliament.
Though Dr Singh inherited the NSSP from the previous National Democratic Alliance government, he always defended it.
Dipomatic sources strongly deny reports that India will incur a huge cost in separating its civil and military nuclear facilities.
Regarding the issue of the Fissile Material Cut-off treaty which the US wants to incorporate in the final agreement which will be negotiated after both Houses of the US Congress pass the bill, diplomatic sources say India now has more reactors with a lesser demand for the fuel.
Because all the reactors which are under safeguards will get imported fuels sparing the existing stock of fuel for current and future reactors. It will free the pressure on country's uranium demand for military purposes, he claims.
A diplomat reiterated that, "Dr Singh wanted this civil nuclear cooperation to support his economic vision. If you ask me: What was the motivation behind getting this Indo-US nuclear deal, I would say: a 10 per cent growth rate!"
"Now we have a foreign policy necessary for 10 per cent growth," the diplomat said. "Beyond nuclear cooperation, we have an energy partnership, growing economic relations, a CEOs Forum, agriculture and science and technology cooperation firmly in place with the US."
He said other than growing ties with the US, India's relations with China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Pakistan have improved. He said the UPA government thinks that, "you need peace in the neighbourhood to have 10 per cent growth."
On why nuclear cooperation was given precedence over all other bilateral issues, the diplomat said, "If the nuclear issue was not resolved, India's space, defence and high-technology industry would not get huge investments. No multinational will invest in India if US laws do not permit it. That unresolved issue was poisoning the entire trade system between India and the US! It was the roadblock to India's knowledge power."
"This nuclear bill is not about nuclear technology or about selling some US reactors to India," the diplomat said. "The US is buying a relationship and in the process India's strategic interest is being served. It will also help the Indian economy to grow by 10 per cent."
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