A flashback to victory

On the India-US nuclear deal, PM took the initiative, risked his government and triumphed.

Addressing the nation for the first time from the ramparts of Delhi's Red Fort, on August 15, 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared, playing on Robert Frost's lines, "Today, I have no promises to make, but I have promises to keep." The reference being to the fact that his agenda in office would be defined by the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) arrived at between the constituents of the coalition he headed. It is not a secret that almost every important policy initiative taken by the first United Progressive Alliance government (UPA 1), save the nuclear deal, was embedded in the NCMP. The historic India-US agreement for cooperation in the development of civil nuclear energy, and the subsequent end to what Singh has called "the nuclear apartheid" against India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), that normalised and "legitimised" India's status as

a nuclear weapons power, was Singh's own promise to the country that he finally kept.

The nuclear deal was not an NCMP commitment because it was only after Singh took charge as PM that he discovered that his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had initiated an important dialogue with President George W. Bush of the United States towards this end. When the deed was finally done, Singh told Vajpayee, as the two stood alone at Singh's official residence, "I have completed what you began."

It is not, therefore, surprising that when Prime Minister Singh was asked, at last week's press conference in New Delhi, what he thought was the "high point" of his decade in office, he promptly said, "the best moment for me was when we were able to strike a nuclear deal with the United States to end the nuclear apartheid, which had sought to stifle the processes of social and economic change and technical progress of our country in many ways."

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