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?Aim was to change world order?

There's considerable satisfaction in the highest levels of Govt over the successful conclusion of Bush's visit, writes Manoj Joshi.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 00:59 IST
Manoj Joshi
Manoj Joshi

There is considerable satisfaction in the highest levels of the UPA government over the successful conclusion of US President George W Bush's visit to India. While some of these feelings are about overcoming the domestic challenge posed by skittish scientists and Left-wing critics, in great measure it is about negotiating a complex arrangement that lets India have its cake, and eat it too.

Refusing to put a grand strategic gloss to the outcome, a source at the highest level said: "We have managed to increase the manoeuvre room for managing our energy needs, without affecting our military programme."

He emphasised that while the US implicitly recognised India's nuclear weapons programme, "its size, direction and future will be our decision." The separation plan that would keep some 8 of the 22 functioning and under construction reactors as well as the Prototype and the Test Fast Breeder Reactor outside the safeguards regime, has "protected the autonomy of our decision-making."

Another top-level source added that the separation plan was based on a detailed government assessment of the nuclear weapons programme today, as well as all possible future threat scenarios.

Asked the most difficult issue in the talks, the source replied: "Placing Indian reactors in safeguards in perpetuity." Referring to the strict safeguards that non-nuclear weapons states under the NPT have with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, he said for India, the US agreed to create a new set of "India specific" safeguards. Besides bilateral legal guarantees, the US was committed to working with the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to ensure "uninterrupted supply of fuel" to India's civil nuclear programme.

On the political protests, the high-level source said, "I explained everything, but we didn't succeed." On the Muslim protesters, the government intends to explain the deal to top leaders. The Indo-US deal, the source maintained, is not an endorsement of the US war in Iraq.

Asked how comfortable India was in dealing with the US, the source noted that the government's aims were to enlarge India's options. India's larger strategic aim, he underlined, "was to change the world order."

As to the deal being motivated by commercial interests in the US, the source said once the civil programme was identified, there would be commercial opportunities for the US companies. But he was not sure if US companies, who did not have an active nuclear power industry could fulfill the needs. It is likely that Russian, French and other companies would pitch in, he said.

He also observed that the deal did not threaten China or Pakistan, "We have explained the July 18 deal to top Chinese leaders," the source said, "and have had no negative response."

First Published: Mar 05, 2006 00:59 IST