N-window opens, deal may be done after all
Business unrelated to India has opened a window for New Delhi to quickly conclude its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
On Monday, the agency put off its scheduled board of governors’ meeting. It is now likely to be held on July 28. This, top officials believe, will allow for the passage of the safeguards agreement, given that India is to approach the atomic watchdog to finalise the accord in the next few days.
Officials now believe that India and the IAEA will be able to turn the draft agreement into a text, thereby allowing the United States to go to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for a clean exemption, opening the way for nuclear commerce with India.
The IAEA opportunity has coincided with the UPA-Left divorce formalised on Tuesday. With PM Manmohan Singh confident that there is no threat to his government, the nuclear deal — in coma for months — has made a full recovery.
By receiving Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and dispatching National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan to Tehran, the Congress-led government is signalling that it’s not afraid of US opprobrium as it pursues the deal.
Senior Indian officials have over the past few days voiced quiet optimism that the deal will cross the IAEA and NSG hurdles.
The Indian understanding is that New Delhi will be able to buy nuclear reactors and fuel from countries such as Russia and France once the NSG relaxes its guidelines for India. In such a situation, the US would like to ensure that its legislature, too, allows for nuclear commerce with India. The officials appeared confident that the US Congress will clear the deal. After all, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had sold the deal to Americans, saying it would produce jobs for them.
On July 4, speaking at the US ambassador’s residence, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, without referring to the deal, told David Mulford he would have “full satisfaction” by the end of his tenure.
The message was clear: the deal will be done.