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Home > News > Report

Manmohan basks in post N-deal glory

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | July 27, 2007 02:24 IST
Last Updated: July 27, 2007 09:40 IST

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The body language of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] surprised his officers on Thursday. He leant back on the chair sitting with his leg stretched while talking to his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his colleagues at a meeting held at his residence in New Delhi to brief the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders about 123 agreement that has been finalised between India and US.

The attendees consisted of BJP president Rajnath Singh, former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh, former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and senior writer and thinker Arun Shourie.

PM Singh is always self-conscious, tight-lipped and sits straight. But today his body language conveyed more than Narayanan's briefing to the leaders of India's leading opposition party.

PM Singh who is acutely underplaying his "achievement" of getting the extraordinary nuclear agreement with US is all set to make history and he is well aware of the fact that opposition parties, whether they hate it or love it, have to live with it.

The meeting took place in an amenable atmosphere. BJP leaders didn't raise any fundamental criticism.

In the meeting, Vajpayee didn't speak. Arun Shourie tried to argue but the PM told him to rest assured that his concerns have been taken care of in the agreement.

Yashwant SInha tried to lay claim to some credit, saying that BJP's criticism in parliament has helped India gain some more concessions.

It made the difference when Atomic Energy Commission's chief Anil Kakodkar told BJP leaders, "We have a good deal."

PM Singh's team delightfully heard former Foreign Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, the negotiator of the next steps in strategic partnership with US. He gave a long speech about the deal alarming the government but his speech did say "...officers (diplomats) have done a superb job."

According to a BJP leader, PM Singh and his team are not saying, 'Here are the proposal, terms and conditions which we may accept and sign the deal. They are saying 'This is the deal India has agreed to. The deal is done. They are not asking for the BJP's or Left's opinion. Only informing us."

A senior BJP functionary told, "It appears BJP will not keep up the pressure on government because now the deal is done and terms have been accepted by India."

Government is going ahead and signing the deal because the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs and the Cabinet Committee on Security have approved it.

Now, if anything goes wrong in Congress, at Washington level, "It will be the US's headache," said an officer in the PMO.

In both meetings, PMO officials have told politicians that the 123 agreement doesn't mention India's right to nuclear test. Since the 123 agreement is silent on the future test it's not binding on India, argue the negotiators.

From the Indian side the deal is done, conditions finalized. The signing of it, by Foreign Minister Pranav Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is the only formality left.

According to sources in the PMO, Rice and Mukherjee will formally sign the deal when Rice visits New Delhi in month or so.

On July 25, leaders of the Left parties had been apprised of the deal by PM Singh, Narayanan and Foreign Secretary S S Menon and others.

CPI-M's Prakash Karat who was also present in the meeting didn't speak much and said that his party will comment only after the text of the deal is given to them.

Similarly, CPI's A B Bardhan told the PM, "From what we have read in the newspapers it seems that you have got a good deal but we will form our opinion only after reading the test."

In effect, Congress's political opponents are being told, 'It's a historic event. India is joining the nuclear world order by signing this deal.'

An eyewitness who was present in the meeting on Thursday said PM Singh is in a jubilant mood without actually celebrating the event.