| President George W. Bush plays cricket in Pakistan with a tennis ball. Bush faced three balls, one bouncing off his shoulder though he ducked (second from left). After the game, the President did hint that baseball is where his heart is. “I’m a big baseball fan,” he said. Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq and opener Salman Butt were at hand to coach Bush but the country’s most famous cricketer, Imran Khan, was put under house arrest. (AP)
New Delhi, March 4: After successfully clinching the nuclear agreement, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will now market the deal to those disturbed by President George W. Bush’s visit and India’s growing closeness to Washington.
Singh is expected to make it clear that “no implicit or unstated assurances” have been given to Washington about India’s nuclear weapons programme and that the deal does not mean Indian endorsement of US actions in Iraq, its policy towards Iran or the US perspective on the world.
The Prime Minister, according to senior sources, would explain this to those feeling disturbed about the implications of the nuclear deal.
While Singh is expected to continue to hold more interactions with the government’s Left allies, he will also hold a meeting with Muslim scholars and leaders when the budget session of Parliament goes into recess this month.
He will impress upon them that the nuclear deal is in national interest and not directed against any community.
The thrust of Singh’s argument to the Muslim leaders would be two-fold: that anyone who claims that the nuclear deal is directed against a community is questioning its patriotism; that the community is an integral part of Indian nationalism and what has been done is in the national interest of India.
Singh, it is learnt, will not try to delegitimise the protests or protesters against Bush. If large sections of citizens were disturbed, then, according to the sources, the Prime Minister’s attempt would be “to win their hearts and minds”.
He will explain to them the energy security reasons which necessitated the deal ' for continued economic growth, the nuclear apartheid practised against India had to be dismantled.
The government’s position, according to the sources, is that the deal gives the country “greater manoeuvrability in mapping out India’s energy future while maintaining the autonomy of our strategic programme”.
Energy availability, they said, would be the key determinant of whether Indian economic growth is going to take place at the desired pace.
There will be a conscious attempt to distance India from whatever new global architecture the US may be trying to put into place. The understanding is that India has to look at its own interests, including its energy security. “The US is a global power and their thinking need not converge with ours,” one of the sources said.
The view in the government apparently is that India needed a favourable environment for its development “but there are no international solutions to India’s problems and they have to come from within”.
As for the Left parties, the sources claimed that the Prime Minister had kept them briefed at every stage but “obviously” his efforts had not been successful ' as evidenced in the protests they organised. He would have further interactions with them.
On Iran, Singh is expected to tell the Left what he told Bush ' that in dealing with an old and proud civilisation, diplomacy had a greater chance of success than cornering it.
India’s position would continue to be that while it would not like a new nuclear weapons state to emerge in its neighbourhood, the Iran issue should be discussed with patience.
However, New Delhi’s position on the Iran vote scheduled for March 6 in Vienna would depend on how the resolution is worded, the sources said.
India, the Prime Minister will explain, would not automatically become the flag-bearer of US agenda even on something as desirable as democracy.
The sources said the Prime Minister had tried to impress upon Bush the need to appreciate how democracies functioned.
Singh apparently told him ' “as an older man to a younger man” ' that democracy was about human institutions and that “societies cannot be transformed mechanically overnight”.