AS Indian and American officials in Washington make intensive efforts to finalise the text of the 123 Agreement to operationalise bilateral civil nuclear collaboration, one man who has been closely involved in the dialogue process is preparing to leave the country.
“The Indo-US civil nuclear deal is giving me a sense of Vedic circularity,” said outgoing US Deputy Chief of Mission Geoffrey Pyatt.
“It raised an area characterised by decades of discord, turning it into an area that can be showcased as the new, cooperative phase of bilateral relations,” said Pyatt, whose five-year tenure in New Delhi has seen India-US relations move to “an altogether new dimension”.
“It’s (the civil nuclear deal) become a powerful symbol of what we can do,” said Pyatt, “although in actual terms, it forms a tiny part of the multi-faceted engagement the two countries share,” he added.
Pyatt was in his second tenure in New Delhi from 2002, first as Minister Counselor of Political Affairs and then as DCM at the United States embassy. In this period, he said bilateral relations attained a “paradigm shift for the better.”
He called it an interesting coincidence that he was leaving on the second anniversary of the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which heralded the prospect of civil nuclear collaboration.
Pyatt moves on to Vienna where he said he would be “closely working with India” at the International Atomic Energy Agency. Along with the 123 Agreement, India needs to work out an India-specific set of safeguards with the IAEA for its civilian nuclear reactors.
“March 2, 2006 was a defining moment in personal and inter-state relations,” Pyatt said, speaking of the “great atmosphere between President Bush and the Prime Minister.”
“We were bleary-eyed, having been up till 3 am, unsure of whether we would get a deal,” he said, “but we got there.” India unveiled its Separation Plan, segregating civilian nuclear facilities from the strategic, military ones, fulfilling a major part of its commitment laid out in the July 18 Joint Statement and firmly setting bilateral civil nuclear relations on track after a three-decade hiatus.
Declining comment on the current, crucial round of negotiations because he was not in them, Pyatt said he was “an optimist” and believed the deal would be done. “There is a commitment in both governments to get this deal done.”
“I have been struck by the degree to which we in government are running to catch up with what’s happening on the people-to-people front between our two countries,” Pyatt said, when asked how the bilateral relationship had changed.
“You can get a sense of how India’s expectations of itself are changing. It’s very important how much is happening in the non-government sector between the two countries,” he said.
“My last trip out of Delhi last week was to IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Kanpur, which we (the United States) helped set up and which we’ve stepped out from. Now its old students feel they have to give back to the institute, to their country. That’s a huge change.”