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‘Only US can see us through’

Shyam Saran, the key Govt negotiator of N-deal, says only America could restore India to the international nuclear arena. Nilova Roy Chaudhury reports.
By Nilova Roy Chaudhury | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 19, 2008 03:03 AM IST

As a last ditch attempt to see the N-deal with the US through the International Atomic Energy Agency, a top official said only America could restore India to the international nuclear arena.

“Whatever reservations have been expressed about our relations with the US, no other friendly country, member of the NSG has the necessary standing to lead the process of opening up the existing multilateral regime to accommodate India,” said Shyam Saran, the PM’s Special Envoy on the deal.

India, Saran said, was trying to conclude the deal to be able to engage not only with the US, but with the rest of the world on civil nuclear commerce. France and Russia, which sought to engage with India and are members of the NSG like the US, were not in a position to readmit India into the international nuclear regime. “The US is in a unique position precisely because it initiated these restrictive regimes in the first place and also because it remains the pre-eminent source of new sensitive technologies,” Saran said on Monday. He was delivering a lecture on ‘India and the nuclear domain.’
He also said the international environment might not always be favourable for India, indicating that the passage of the deal through the NSG was not going to be easy.

Reiterating that the Hyde Act provided crucial waivers to the US administration to allow them to negotiate a civil nuclear agreement with India, despite its stated nuclear weapons programme and despite not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Saran said if the US Congress passes the 123 Agreement, then only that bilateral agreement will be binding on India.

The draft safeguards agreement, if finalised with the IAEA, would have to be shown to the UPA-Left mechanism before it can be okayed. The Left parties are on record saying they would not allow the civil nuclear deal with the US to proceed.

Government negotiators head back to Vienna for another round of talks with the IAEA next week, in an effort to finally get an India-specific safeguards agreement. Conceding that the negotiations were taking time, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said that was because it was the first time such an agreement was being discussed.

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