The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kill now, not later: Envoys

Washington, Aug. 17: Several key Indian ambassadors have told Delhi that if the nuclear deal is to be dropped, it should be done now, not after an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group is negotiated.

Indian diplomats have also told the PMO that the impact on Indo-US relations would be far worse if Delhi takes a political decision not to go ahead with the deal after the 123 Agreement is approved by the US Congress.

The standoff has put a damper on the meetings that Shyam Saran, the Prime Ministerís special envoy on the nuclear deal, is having around the world.

Saranís talks in four capitals, vital to NSG negotiations on changing the rules of global nuclear commerce, were to represent the high watermark of a confident India that is now in a position to undo the injustice done to it by the big powers in keeping it out of the exclusive nuclear club.

It was to have been crowned by an Australian willingness this week to sell uranium to India and a noticeable, India-specific shift in Japanís traditionally conservative views on non-proliferation.

The Russians have helped salvage Saranís mission despite the crisis back home.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov suggested to the Prime Ministerís special envoy that the momentum of Delhiís gains should be kept up by circulating Indiaís draft IAEA agreement among NSG countries without waiting for it to be signed.

Lavrovís advice is designed to partly overcome the credibility crisis that Saran is facing in most capitals because of doubts about the political will in Delhi.

The Americans have also advised India to tom-tom its non-proliferation credentials to make for easy passage of the agreement on Capitol Hill and to sway NSG states towards changing their rules.

Indiaís deputy chief of mission in Washington, Raminder Singh Jassal, had set the ball rolling with two strong statements at the National Defense University here underlining this position. But without political support in Delhi for changing the rules of global nuclear commerce, all this effort may prove a non-starter.

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