A strange omission indeed

The vociferous debate on the nuclear deal has ignored the fact that nuclear security lies not in bigger or more lethal bombs but the development of missile technology, which India can develop only if the ban on purchase of dual-use technology is relaxed, if not lifted entirely, writes Prem Shankar Jha

Dr Manmohan Singh's long drawn out battle to end India's nuclear isolation is almost over. All that remains is the passage of the 123 agreement by the US  Congress.

Contrary to a belief fostered by the opposition, and swallowed uncritically by the media, this is not going to be a cakewalk.

For the Left's long drawn out filibuster has left the US Congress with  no time to go through all the procedures mandated by it  for the consideration of  new bills. As a result, both houses of Congress will have to adopt 'fast track' procedures to push it through before the Bush administration demits charge in February. As of now, it is by no means certain that they will be able to do so.

Against this background, the government's decision not to place any orders for nuclear power plants till the US completes its enabling  legislation at home is not only gracious but wise.

Not only does it allow American firms to put pressure upon the two houses to take the extraordinary measures that are now needed, but it reinforces the  main argument that the Bush administration has been using all along to push the deal through, namely that India is a responsible nuclear power.

Responsibility is not a cloak that countries, any more than individuals, can don or shrug off  at will. It is an inherent trait of  character. By agreeing  to wait India has not only acknowledged its debt to the US, but also demonstrated its innate desire to play fair. It will therefore go some way towards reassuring the waverers in the two houses, who still harbour doubts about the wisdom of making such a giant, country-specific exception to the non-proliferation regime.