Doosra Deal

India’s decades-long nuclear apartheid will finally be over. Emerging from a bruising battle that lasted a little more than three years with the coveted pass to nuclear commerce in hand, India will, in a space of weeks, ink path-breaking civil nuclear agreements with the US and France. After India signs a deal with Russia in December, it will be tantamount to a second freedom for India—this time from a regime built over decades to keep it out of legitimate nuclear trade and in a state of knowledge-deficit. The stage has been set for the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal next month, after the US Senate ratifies the deal next week, even if it may not be by as overwhelming a margin by which the Hyde Act was approved. Sources said there were five holdouts in the Senate including 90-year-old Robert Byrd, who reportedly has nothing against the deal but, being a stickler for procedure, opposes the way the Bush administration has tried to ram the deal through Congress. The five Democrat leaders are Byrd, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin and Haya (from Hawaii). The Bill, which got a 298-117 backing from the House of Representatives hours before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left the US, is to be taken up by the Senate next week. The tally was only marginally more than the two-thirds benchmark in the 435-member House, and suggested a diminution of support the deal had received during voting on the Hyde Act by a 359-68 score. The lower count, however, did not faze officials who attributed it to reservations of some members about the way the Bush administration had fast-tracked the deal through Congress. The passage of the Berman Bill HR 7081 will set the stage for the 123 agreement to be signed into law by President George Bush and the formal signing during secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit to New Delhi in October. Earlier, Rice was scheduled to follow foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee back to New Delhi on October 3. But because of Durga puja, Mukherjee will not be available. Mukherjee will be in Washington from Monday. Fresh dates for Rice’s visit are being worked out.The Indian side has been assured by the Bush administration that all its concerns regarding extraneous provisions in the Congress bill would be addressed by the presidential signing statement. India’s concerns are mainly about the dilution of the fuel-supply assurances in the Congress. In a move that was far from acceptable to India, Howard Berman, a known critic of the deal, put the state department’s letter to the late Tom Lantos on the Congressional record. The letter set out the position that fuel guarantees would not hold in case India conducted a nuclear test.
A nuclear energy deal with France is likely to be signed in Paris today during the PM’s visit. With Russians also eager to sign their own version of the 123 deal with India, the technology denial regime erected after India conducted the first Pokharan test will finally disappear.Amid jubilation among officials and members of the Indian American community who worked hard to garner support for the deal on Capitol Hill, concerns remained about the language of the Bill.
Immediate benefits of the N-Deals: India can import N-fuel for civilian reactors. India’s nuclear plants function at about 40% plant load factor. This can immediately move up to at least 90% . NPCIL in talks for building 8 nuclear plants. After the deals are signed, these plans move into faster gear. India can source uranium from countries like Canada and Kazakhstan.
Medium term benefits:India Inc can access dual-use technologies in sectors like IT, pharma and space. Global defence majors can start talks on defence sales to India — this means start of defence outsourcing to India and growth of that industry. India can start negotiations with top NSG countries to lift national dual-use technology ban.
Long term benefits:India could become a nuclear supplier itself. Huge diplomatic gains. Case for India as G8 member will get stronger .De-hyphenation with Pakistan complete, India will be on much stronger ground vis-a-vis China .

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