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Newsweek: How Singh Blew India’s Moment

Author: Jeremy Kahn
September 13, 2008

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It must have been an unusually tense night for India's prime minister. While Manmohan Singh waited in New Delhi, his fate hung in the balance more than 4,800 km away in Vienna. There diplomats from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group were deciding whether India should be granted a waiver allowing it to purchase uranium and civilian nuclear technology abroad—even though India has never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The dispensation, part of the nuclear deal hammered out between New Delhi and Washington in 2005, would provide India with much-needed energy, cement its new strategic partnership with Washington and enhance its international stature. Singh had staked his legacy on the deal and risked the collapse of his fragile coalition government if it was scotched.

As the clock ticked past midnight in Vienna, things looked grim, with six nations reportedly opposing the deal. Yet just a few hours later, after a flurry of last-minute U.S. diplomacy, the holdouts came around, and the news was announced Sept. 5: India had secured its exemption. Headlines hailed the agreement as a triumph for Singh and a remarkable rebound from lame-duck status.

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