Friday, June 20, 2008

Perhaps the U.S. India Nuclear Deal Isn't Dead After All?

For weeks, the conventional wisdom has been that due to domestic politics in India, the U.S.-India nuclear deal would not come to fruition during the last days of the Bush administration. While this is still the most likely scenario, it appears that the deal’s epitaph shouldn’t be written just yet:

In the face of the Left’s unrelenting opposition to the India-US nuclear deal, the Congress [Party], in a major shift of stance, is seriously evaluating the political fallout of sewing up the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA without their consent….Congress sources confirmed to Hindustan Times the possibility of the government signing the agreement despite the Communists’ rigid opposition. But the final call would be taken after the UPA-Left committee meeting now slated on June 25.
Will the Congress Party actually call the Left’s bluff? If so, would the Left recall its support for the governing coalition, thereby forcing elections in either November or December? And if the Congress Party goes ahead and signs a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, would there be enough time to complete the next two stages in the deal (NSG approval of an exemption for India and U.S. Congressional approval of the U.S.-India 123 agreement) before the Bush administration leaves office?

There's also this twist, as reported today by the Associated Press:
With no guarantee that the next U.S. president will be as strong a proponent of the deal as Bush, [Indian Prime Minister] Singh and [Congress Party leader Sonia] Gandhi are re-evaluating that position and appear willing to hold elections if the communists won't budge, the businessman said. A major factor in their reasoning, he said, is the early monsoon rains, which could result in a strong fall harvest, pushing down food prices just as the elections would take place. That would also help the government tame inflation, which hit a 13-year high of 11.05 percent Friday.
Be sure to stay tuned!

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