In July 2005 and in the months and years that followed, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, was feted as the visionary architect and driving force of the landmark US-India civil nuclear cooperation deal.
At that time, the key significance behind the signing was the ending of India’s more than 30 years of isolation in the field of nuclear commerce.
More than four years since that first historic signing and the hard-balled and excruciating negotiating process that has followed, Dr. Singh is once again emerging as the driving force for fine tuning the deal with Washington, keeping India’s interests upper most in his mind.
Sources accompanying him on his trip to Washington revealed that he is on the phone almost on a daily basis with a team working on the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation deal just as he did in 2005 when interacting with the Bush White House.
Dr. Singh is keen for the deal to be signed and sealed and President Barack Obama appears to be showing the same level of enthusiasm and interest.
Going by what the sources are saying, the signing of this deal and ironing out perceived differences on the reprocessing issue could be the “big ticket” item of the entire trip.
According to sources, there are just one-and-a-half points to be covered. The negotiations are on the last stretch and a high-powered team is in Washington working out the nitty-gritty aspects well ahead of and in time for the formal discussions between the heads of government in the White House on Tuesday.
The American leadership is already on record as saying that this historic agreement should be seen as a thanksgiving event that will play a part in the much broader framework for facilitating an enduring friendship with India.
Senior officials have described the agreement as an effort to cement ties between the world''s largest democracy with the world''s oldest democracy, and credited "a lot of architects and driving forces behind this agreement."
The view in Washington is that the deal is and will good for democracy and good for the world.
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on record as saying that "As much as the civil nuclear agreement is a breakthrough, this (US-India) is also a friendship that is based on values, a friendship that is based on ties, people-to-people ties.”
The Indian side sees the deal as representing a change and a transformation, emblematic of a new relationship, a beginning of deeper cooperation.
The ultimate aim of the US-India civil nuclear deal is to enable India to gain access to state-of-the-art civil nuclear technology to enable it to keep pace with the growing demand for energy, achieve energy security, and help it to diversify and promote clean and environment-friendly source of energy.
Since August of 2007, both India and United States have adopted a step-by-step process to negotiate and agree on signing India-specific IAEA protocols on nuclear safeguards; securing exemption from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to facilitate civil nuclear trade with India; and seek US Congressional approval to the 123 Agreement.
At home, Dr. Singh’s government has worked hard to secure a vote of confidence in Parliament in spite of stringent opposition to the deal, which the latter views as a pandering to American interests.
The signing and sealing of the deal during this visit, will indeed be the icing on Dr. Singh’s efforts of the past four-and-a-half years.