OK, so the NSG waiver is through and this is good news. But what is GOI going to do now? The U.S. is keen to rush the 123 agreement through and Condoleezza Rice wants India to not do anything to disadvantage U.S. companies (i.e. to wait before signing commercial contracts with other suppliers). External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee seems to be saying that India will not proceed until the 123 is done.
Mr. Mukherjee's remarks -- if they have been reported correctly -- are dangerous, for two reasons.
First, as I wrote in an op-ed last week, there can be no question of India operationalising the 123 so long as the U.S. persists in reneging on the commitments it has made therein. Demanding fresh clarifications from Washington on fuel supply assurances, fall-back safeguards and reprocessing consent, therefore, is a must. Receiving satisfactory answers on these points has to be a necessary precondition for operationalising the 123.
Second, it is one thing to wait a few weeks out of diplomatic propriety for the US Congress to approve the 123 before rushing to complete agreements with Russia and France. But if approval is delayed, or comes with riders, all considerations of propriety must surely be jettisoned.