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Global nuclear roadshow set to roll

New Delhi, Aug. 9: Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister’s special envoy and former foreign secretary, will lead a foreign office blitzkrieg to key countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to rally support for the Indo-US deal.

Saran is travelling to Russia, Germany, Brazil and Argentina from Sunday.

The two seniormost secretaries in the ministry of external affairs, Nalin Surie and N. Ravi, besides the foreign secretary, will share the rest of the 45-member NSG among themselves.

Although the 123 Agreement holds that NSG clearance for the deal is a responsibility of the US, India wants to marshal support so that all sides are covered.

Leading the list of countries to watch out for is China, though Austria, Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand are also said to have been critical of US efforts to bring India into the nuclear sanctum sanctorum.

But external affairs ministry officials pointed out that “there’s a huge difference between before and after. Once the deal has been done, it will be a different sight to see who actually opposes the Americans”.

Simultaneously, Anil Kakodkar’s atomic energy department, which played a key role in the 123 negotiations, will launch its own initiative with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so as to deliver an India-specific safeguards agreement.

The NSG, which takes its role as a watchdog body seriously, requires a consensus to clear the deal. Once that comes through, as does the IAEA Agreement, the 123 will return to the US Congress for an up-down (“yes” or “no”) vote.

The choice of Russia as the first country to which India is sending an envoy is said to signal Delhi’s keenness to show an old friend the 123 Agreement first hand.

Moreover, Moscow has been named one of three alternative suppliers of nuclear fuel, just in case India conducts a test and the US stops cooperation. This, officials said, only underlines Moscow’s importance.

Germany is key because it will become the president of the NSG in a few months.

Still, all eyes are on China and how it will respond to the overt Indian request for support for the deal.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Li Jiancho indicated to PTI a couple of days ago that Beijing’s views may be different from 2005 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush had first signed the agreement.

“It is hoped that the international community can explore and properly handle the issue by creative thinking,’’ Li said.

PTI quoted a former Chinese ambassador to India, Cheng Ruisheng, as saying that he believed this showed Beijing would not adopt a “dogmatic’’ stance.

Two years ago, though, the official Chinese media had been critical, saying that the nuclear cooperation would “deal a hard blow to America’s leading role in the global proliferation prevention system”.

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