Wednesday, December 07, 2005

From Washington to Moscow: A Diplomatic Triumph

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns to India today after a successful Russia visit during which President Vladimir Putin assured him that India's ties with the old partner are as solid as ever despite the former's emerging closeness with the U.S. Putin stressed that India's co-operation with the Nuclear Suppliers Group not only attests to its status as a responsible nuclear power but also grants it the leeway to access civilian nuclear energy from the developed world. The Prime Minister for his part scotched any speculation of a backdown from the imminent separation of India's military and civilian nuclear facilities, a mandatory step for the nuclear pact with the U.S. to fructify.

All indications are that the U.S. is moving fast on the said tie-up and things could be looking up for India as early as Feb next year. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is visiting Washington next week to hold talks with undersecretary Nicholas Burns to iron out the creases. This is in continuance of the talks that the two have been holding since the signing of the pact on July 18.

The PM can hardly expect any respite back home though. The Natwar imbroglio might have died down owing to the minister's resignation, but the NDA does not seem to be relenting just yet. Demands for Sonia Gandhi's head persist, and the Left is to be indulged on the nuclear issue. What can give the Congress heart is the crisis in the Opposition camp. Uma Bharti's expulsion has set the cat among the pigeons and a severe OBC backlash within the BJP might just be in the offing. In Mumbai, the Shiv Sena is still on life support after Raj Thackeray's bloodless fratricide. Watch this space.

Saran clears the air
Indo-US Nuclear Pact


In a sign of the growing confidence in India's nuclear capabilities, the country has signed on to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor energy project, abbreviated as ITER. The other nations involved in the project are China, EU, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the U.S. The project will be located at Cadarache in France and will be the biggest international collaboration since the International Space Station.

The basic principle behind ITER is nuclear fusion. While nuclear fission is commonly exploited commercially in nuclear reactors for the generation of electricity, fusion has not been similarly utilized for want of the conditions that may bring the process about. Fusion is the process by which stars such as the Sun burn and it is, well was, well nigh impossible to replicate those conditions on Earth. That is about to change. The technique is called Inertial Fusion. For science buffs, how this works can be found here.

Logistics aside, this is a major headway towards energy security and can singularly affect discussions on climate change and alternative fuels. That India is a part of it only adds to the glitter.

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