Ripples reach Wall Street - America's boardrooms abuzz with Indian news

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By K.P. NAYAR in Washington
  • Published 23.07.08

Washington, July 22: Wall Street opened this morning to an unusual work-desk experience: a photograph of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his usual blue turban and a thumbs-up sign spread across half the width of the front page of The Wall Street Journal, just below its masthead.

Never before has the morning staple of the Big Apple’s bankers and stockbrokers carried a photograph of an Indian Prime Minister so prominently on its front page.

It was an indication of the deep interest in America’s corporate boardrooms in India’s recent political crisis. That interest was once more in evidence as the day advanced.

Within minutes of the UPA government surviving the trust vote in the Lok Sabha, a circular went out from the representative organisation of American businessmen with stakes in India.

It had a dramatic title, “Ready, Set, Go: Race is On For Civilian Nuclear Cooperation with India”. The release came from the US-India Business Council (USIBC), which has been in the forefront of three years of lobbying effort for the nuclear deal.

Yesterday, the US state department’s seniormost official dealing with South Asia had outlined the Bush administration’s rapid action to see the nuclear deal through the various domestic and multilateral stages.

The USIBC is made up of captains of American industry and it made the somewhat startling prediction that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “Board of Governors will consider approving its safeguards agreement with India on July 25, (instead of August 1) setting the stage for consideration by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to waive conditions relative to India, ending India’s nuclear isolation, and enabling civilian nuclear trade in technology and fuel by the entire 45-nation body.”

The chamber’s president Ron Somers said “USIBC and the Coalition for Partnership with India” — which is being re-energised following the trust vote — “will be front and centre in this debate to ensure US Congressional passage” of the so-called 123 Agreement to operationalise the nuclear deal.

India’s ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, who put his job on the line in support of the nuclear deal last year, is already in New Delhi for consultations on the steps to ensure speedy Congressional approval of the 123 Agreement. His deputy here, Raminder Singh Jassal, who was to have left for Turkey as ambassador in Ankara on July 15, has been asked to stay back to coordinate arrangements on Capitol Hill.