With the confidence vote out of the way, it will be full speed ahead on the civil nuclear deal. In the critical steps that lie ahead to implement the deal, the first will be getting the IAEA’s board of governors to approve the India-specific safeguards’ agreement.
Senior government officials believe that the IAEA board of governors will pass the safeguards’ agreement when it meets on August 1. And, then the deal will go before the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group – to exempt India from the Group’s existing restrictions on nuclear commerce with India.
Even as the next steps are taken, the most important message from the Lok Sabha to the rest of the world is this: the Manmohan Singh government enjoys a clear majority and is going to push the nuclear deal along. There’s no issue of “minority status” here.
Many questions have been put to Indian interlocutors on the “domestic situation” and its relationship with the nuclear deal; all those have now been laid to rest with the UPA government winning the confidence of Parliament.
While government officials have been cautious about the next steps in implementing the deal, the NSG is, clearly, one area of concern. Some countries, they fear, may still hold out or try to delay the deal.
Shyam Saran, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy, told HT in a recent interview, “This meeting, the sooner it is held, the better it would be, because we understand that the NSG itself will not be able to take an instant decision. Members of the NSG would probably have to consult their governments. They will need to go through some internal procedures…”
And, as and when the NSG gives the green signal, then US President George W Bush would have to determine that all obligations – on the US and India had been fulfilled – and with this determination, the 123 agreement would then be sent to the US Congress.
Saran was of the view that given the political will and bipartisan support, the nuclear deal could clear the 90-day requirement to lie before the US Congress, before being voted on.
He said frankly, “As you can see, there are many ifs and buts, and at each stage, we will face a challenge. We cannot take it for granted that this will be a smooth run. So, we will have to work; we will have to draw upon the goodwill, which India obviously enjoys…and, we hope, we will be able to see it through.”