Nuclear deal to nowhere
A day after the Indo-US deal was signed in Washington, Mr Burns had briefed media about the agreement. He had said that the Bush Administration would present Congress with a detailed plan of action when it reconvenes after the August break.
No such plan has been put up as yet, though the House International Relations Committee has already taken up the issue for discussion.
During the London meeting, the US representative, according to a senior European diplomat, "merely proposed three vague ideas". They were, in order of sequence: Preparing a set of criteria or standards; amending existing NSG rules to accommodate India; and, making an exception for India by waiving the NSG guidelines.
While the US did not push for any one of those three ideas, its representative is said to have indicated that Washington favoured the third option of exempting India from the purview of the stringent NSG rules.
A second G-8 meeting, this time involving senior level participants, was held on October 12. During the discussions on India's nuclear programme, US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph is said to have waffled without going into the specifics of how Washington intends to implement its part of the bargain with New Delhi.
Curiously, at the consultative meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group in Vienna on Wednesday to discuss India's nuclear programme and the scope of international cooperation, the American representative moved away from the position taken in London.
Instead of seeking an exemption to NSG guidelines for India, the US strongly suggested the "setting up of agreed-upon standards" that "countries like India can meet". Security experts in New Delhi interpret this to mean a possible attempt to placate Pakistan by offering it a "set of criteria" that it could strive to meet and stake claim to nuclear supplies.
More importantly, the diplomat said, the NSG meeting also brought to the fore the divisions within the member-countries about resuming nuclear supplies to India. China, Brazil, Italy, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, South Korea and Ireland, among others, openly opposed any nuclear supplies to or nuclear cooperation with India. [Other than China, what's with these countries ? Why are they opposing?]
Nuclear experts point out that the status of the India-US deal, as of today, is hardly encouraging for India. "The Americans are in no hurry. They want to milk the deal for whatever they can get, and thus intend to play out the deal as long as they can to keep India on good behaviour," said one senior analyst in New Delhi.
The intention, according to another security expert, is to force India to put most of its nuclear sites, including its fast-breeder programme and reprocessing facilities, under international inspections and monitoring. "If you strip the deal of its PR, it is clear that the Americans want to get inside India's nuclear programme and contain it from within," he explained.
A section of officials in New Delhi is concerned over the obvious "lack of hurry in Washington to implement any of its commitments". They point out that the US Congress has never before changed any of its laws to benefit just one single country.
"Here we are looking at not just one law but at two important Acts of Congress which will need to be amended," one of them pointed out. In fact, one of these laws, the 1978 NNPA, was promulgated in response to India's 1974 nuclear test.
A very real fear that is now being voiced in official circles and by security strategists is that the US may pressure India to identify as "civilian" all nuclear facilities other than the research reactors and other sites at BAARC.
In addition, the old instruments to cap India's nuclear programme-the CTBT and the FMCT-are again being discussed (as at the NSG and G-8 meetings) as a way to freeze India's weapons capability. Pressure is being mounted on India to unilaterally halt all further fissile-material production.
Once that happens and India has carried out civil-military separation, it will be as good as putting an effective cap on India's nuclear programme and accepting intrusive international inspections and control regimes.
Simultaneous progress on implementing N-deal
Quick movement on Capitol HillUS will lobby with NSG countries for an exception
Special deal only for Delhi
Action only after India complies to separation and IAEA safeguards
Administration yet to give detailed plan to Congress
US wants NSG to " set standards" for countries like India
Islamabad may yet be accommodated; get reactors and fuel