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Maximum support

US is determined to push through a transformation of its relations with India and it sees the nuke deal as a major confidence-building measure.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 01:35 IST

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has begun the hard task of shifting US Congressional opinion in favour of the Indo-US nuclear deal. In contrast, responsible figures in India, such as former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, have been working to derail it. Mr Vajpayee is concerned that the Indian commitment to maintain a moratorium on nuclear testing would somehow limit the Indian arsenal. Such a position is downright dishonest and unbecoming a leader of Mr Vajpayee’s stature. It is not clear whether the former PM is acting out of pique, or is being misled by his advisors into taking his current position. His government announced what was tantamount to a de facto moratorium on May 13, 1998, after India’s second series of tests, at a time when there was no demand by the world community to do so. Further, on that day, there were doubts on whether India’s thermonuclear test had worked and perhaps an additional test, in an available shaft, could have been carried out before the test programme was declared closed.

In contrast, US administration leaders have taken a principled and determined position and stuck to it. They have argued that the deal must be pushed through without any additional clauses that might require renegotiating the deal. Dr Rice’s testimony last week was evidence, if indeed it were needed, that the US is determined to push through a transformation of its relations with India and it sees the nuclear deal as a major confidence-building measure with India. Dr Rice was right in noting that there was nothing the US could do now to give up nuclear weapons or sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But it could still bring the country into the larger ambit of the US’s non-proliferation effort.

As the result of her testimony, powerful Senate leaders like Joe Biden and John Kerry may now be willing to support the deal. Yet, there is still a great deal of effort needed by both the Indian and American governments, as well as representatives of the Indian-American community, to lobby with the US Congressmen who will finally have to vote in a measure to amend the US law to permit nuclear trade with India.