Countdown to India’s re-entry into global nuclear trade


New Delhi : For more than three years, since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington, the India-US nuclear deal has been one of the most hotly debated issues. From then till now, when the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) is meeting in Vienna to consider India’s case for a waiver, the chronicle of the deal:

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July 18, 2005: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush sign a joint statement in Washington that includes a landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal.

March 2, 2006: India presents a separation plan of its civilian and military nuclear facilities under which India will place 14 of its reactors under international safeguards over the phases for the production of nuclear power. US President George Bush approves the separation plan.

Nov 16, 2006: The US Congress approves the Henry J. Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006. Better known as Hyde Act, it grants the US administration a waiver from Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act to resume nuclear commerce with India.

Dec 18 2006: Bush signs the enabling legislation permitting full civilian nuclear cooperation with India into law.

July 27, 2007: India and the US announce the finalisation of bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement, also called the 123 agreement.

Aug 27: Manmohan Singh again defends the deal in parliament and assures it that the deal will not compromise India’s sovereignty or its right to test a nuclear device.

October 2007: The deal slips into temporary limbo as the Left parties and the government carry on their war of words over deal.

November 2007-June 2008: The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Left set a joint panel to resolve their differences over the nuclear deal. The panel holds seven meetings over the next six months, but without any breakthrough. Indian nuclear negotiators finalise the text with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but defers a decision till the government takes a political decision to go ahead with the deal.

June 25: The coalition meets with its leftist allies to try and resolve the impasse, but no agreement is reached.

June 25-July 6: The Left sets an ultimatum to the government to tell it whether it was going ahead with the IAEA pact before Manmohan Singh goes to Japan to attend the G-8 summit in July.

July 7: Manmohan Singh leaves for Japan to attend the G8 summit; midair he tells the travelling media that the government was planning to go ahead with the IAEA pact. The Communist parties announce that it plans to withdraw support to the ruling coalition.

July 8: The government finds another ally in the Samajwadi Party, who says it will vote in support of the deal.

July 9: The Left parties formally withdraws support to the government and calls for a vote of no confidence.

July 10: The Manmohan Singh government sets July 21 and 22 for the trust vote.

July 10: The government unveils the text of India’s proposed safeguards pact and post it on the website of the external affairs ministry.

July 22: The UPA government wins the trust vote.

Aug 1: The 35-member IAEA board of governors approves unanimously India-specific safeguards agreement.

Aug 20-21: The 45-nation NSG holds its plenary to consider a waiver from the existing guidelines of global nuclear commerce. The meeting ends inconclusively with at least eight sceptical countries voicing objections to some aspect of the deal.

Aug 30: National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan makes it clear that India will not accept anything less than a clean waiver and will walk out from any exemption that includes prescriptive provisions.

Sep 3: Ahead of the NSG’s second meeting, a “secret” letter written by the State Department to the Congress saying that the US will terminate nuclear trade with India immediately if New Delhi conducted a nuclear test creates a political storm in India.

Sep 4: The NSG begins its second plenary.