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Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's Now or Never

TODAY'S EDITORIAL: It's Now or Never TOI, 25 Aug 2007, Write to Editor
In the interests of its survival the government might have slowed the process of negotiating a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. But it doesn't have much wiggle room. With the safeguards agreement in place, New Delhi will have to approach the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for a waiver, for which purpose a special session can be convened in September or October.
After that the deal goes to US Congress for approval, a process that ideally ought to be completed by early 2008. The US goes into election mode that year and domestic political considerations will kick in. The Democrat-controlled Congress may not want to hand George Bush a victory on a platter as presidential elections approach.
Dithering and indecisiveness on New Delhi's part is bound to encourage the enemies of the deal, who will try their utmost to kill it. While placating the Left, therefore, the government must not allow itself to be blackmailed into sacrificing the deal for the sake of its survival. It's not just the Congress, the Left too has a good deal at stake.
There are rumblings within the Bengal CPM, in particular, in response to the ideological brinkmanship of Messrs Karat & Co. The Left's current tally of 60 seats in the Lok Sabha may well be a historical high; there's little hope of reaching this figure if elections are held at this stage. The Left may not want a close strategic partnership with the US, and they will find others who share their misgivings.
But in taking the government hostage on the nuclear deal they have picked an issue which enables three decades of technology sanctions imposed by the international community on India to be lifted. If the deal is approved it would raise India's stock and enable high-tech collaboration not just with the US, but also with France, Germany, Japan, Russia and South East Asia. It may be against China's immediate interests, but if the issue comes up at the NSG where China is a member, it is unlikely to stand out alone in holding up the waiver if most other countries are convinced of India's case.
But Beijing can scotch the deal before it comes up at the NSG through the ideological hold it has on Marxist parties in India's domestic politics. All the more necessary, therefore, for the government not to let the deal fail. The prime minister should stick to his stated position, and continue to dare the Marxists to bring down the government. Make TOI your home page 10:04 AM

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