In 1974, immediately after India conducted its first nuclear test, the message that our then Prime minister received was that "the Buddha has smiled".
But today, the Buddha is grinning...
Ending 34 years of the nuclear apartheid, the NSG has finally given its waiver. A great job done, a feat achieved. I must admit, I am no fan of the UPA government or the Congress party. Till a few months back I used to think that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is being run by a remote control. I felt sorry for him, as he, I thought, was a misfit in his role as the PM.
However, the cool confidence with which PM and his team has handled the case was impeccable and has proved that Indian diplomacy has finally come of age and India as a superpower is truly in the making. Hats off to you and your team, Mr. PM!
However, the deal is not merely what it seems. What we see today may just be the tip of an iceberg.
Why has the US done all this for us? 10 years back, it would have been tough to imagine US and India going to bed this way. So what has changed in these 10 years would give us clues on why the deal went through.
The US has lost hope in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- it seems that the US is getting around to the idea that there is no point in hoping against hope. With energy prices on the boil, the US can perhaps ill afford to continue to sustain heavy expenditure both on energy and its military campaigns in the Middle East and our neighbourhood.
The bottomline is that the US needs friends here. India is perhaps the only nation that fits the bill -- India has some economic as well as a military prowess that can help the objectives of the US in the region.
Further, despite the fact that for decades, successive Indian governments were cozying up with the Soviets and took pride in being non-aligned, the Indian public largely identified themselves with the US. This is evidenced from the fact that recent surveys which have in fact proved that Indians actually appreciate the US -- only citizens of a dozen or so countries share the same feeling. The rest -- citizens of the remaining 170-odd independent countries either hate the US or just don't care. So domestic public opinion in India will not be an issue.
The US cannot trust the Chinese any more -- the US and China were together all these years for business. But today, with the Chinese successfully make inroads into governments of key US allies -- Australia, New Zealand and a few European countries, the US is genuinely and justifiably terrified. Never has the US needed a counterweight to China more than today.
The nuclear deal brings India and US into a de-facto military and economic alliance (the CENTO of the 60s will be reborn, with Japan, Singapore and other ASEAN countries also being a part of it!). Now that the US has done its bit, India would have to reciprocate -- my idea is that India would be required to police the Indian Ocean shipping routes from the Persian Gulf right upto Straits of Malacca and from Diego Garcia right up to the Andamans, thereby giving India a control of flow energy and commodities to China.
The US would also leverage on India's relationship with Tehran to get Tehran to open up. Despite all rhetoric, Iran by far has been and is the most stable nation in the Middle East. The US needs energy, Tehran is the potential supplier and India can get them talking.
On the commercial side, the nuclear deal opens up a whole new opportunity for US hi-tech companies to expand into a virgin territory for dual-use technology. And in this too, India is a huge market, especially when it has the third largest army in the world. India gets the required military hardware that it needs to stand up to China.
A win-win for both the US and India. India never had it better, the Buddha is surely grinning!!!