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The Indo-US Nuclear Deal - Tracing the Footsteps


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The history of the Indo-US nuclear deal has oscillated like a pendulum between the two countries. It was on July 18, 2005 that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George Bush first issued a Joint Statement to the effect of ending India's four decade long nuclear isolation and giving it an official nuclear weapons state status. Right from this time the deal faced criticism and opposition within the country.

The Opposition parties as also the Left parties, then the outside supporters of the Congress-led coalition, raised serious doubts about the nuclear deal. Because of the Left parties’ ideological problems regarding strategic ties with the US, they maintained a steady stream of criticism questioning the government's decision. In the meantime the Bush government also faced the heat by supporters of non-proliferation who said that the agreement would make the NPT regime superfluous.

One of the crucial tenets of the agreement was that India would separate the civilian and military atomic reactors. On November 16, 2006 the US Congress passed the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006. This act included a waiver for the US administration from Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, allowing them to resume nuclear trade with India. But the political storm within the country refused to die down, with the BJP pointing the finger at the government for “surrendering its right to conduct independent foreign policy in order to clinch the deal" and “surrendering the right to conduct nuclear tests in the future".

Inspite of the storm and thunder, the Congress government continued to push for the deal and the next significant step came when the 123 Agreement was clinched by the US and Indian officials on July 27, 2007. Further developments on the civilian nuclear deals issue the government on the verge of a collapse when in 2008 when the Left threatened them with “serious consequences" if the deal goes through. True to their word the Left parties withdrew support to the government on July 8th, 2008 and two days later the Prime Minister called for a vote of confidence in the Parliament.

Winning the trust vote gave a new lease of life to the government as well as the civilian nuclear deal. The next crucial step was the NSG meet on August 21st and 22nd which concluded inconclusively and by reservations by some countries. The US government worked hard to lobby for the deal and in the next NSG meet on September 4-6th US came up with a revised draft and the NSG granted waiver to India, agreeing to the deal!

Finally on October 2nd, history was created when the US Senate cleared the Nuclear Pact with an overwhelming margin of 86-13 votes. The final approval ends India's decades’ long nuclear isolation and gives it nuclear weapons state status at par with the other five nuclear powers.

Shilpi Ganguly is a blogger who frequently writes on various topics. Find more of her views on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal .


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