In 2005, US President George W Bush visited India and signed a landmark agreement for cooperation with India in the field of civilian nuclear energy, marking a historic shift in US policy towards India. And from that July of 2005, the defining tale of the UPA Government began.
The Agreement met with mixed reactions in both countries. In the US, non-proliferationists attacked the agreement, saying that it permanently damages the NPT, while those for the deal argued that this would send a signal that democratic countries would find a friend in the US. In India, the Left, former allies of the UPA, broke way from the coalition. They say it was because the deal severely undermines India's nuclear capabilities, while the government says they did it because of ideological opposition to the US. The UPA government, and the PM in particular, supported the agreement as it would provide India with much-needed electricity.
Whatever might be the real answer, and there might be none altogether, the 123 Agreement signifies the coming-of-age of India. No other foreign policy issue has ever brought so many voices together. The Trust Vote, caused by the exit of the Left, gave us a deep insight into how knowledgeable, or otherwise, parliamentarians can be.
The most important facets of the agreement were the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the NSG, both of which were unique and historic. After the agreement, a third category as a semi-nuclear weapons state was created and so far, India is the only member of this category.
The credit for the agreement goes to the Congress leadership and, to a smaller extent, UPA components. Had Manmohan ingn not gambled his entire career and reputation on this agreement, it would have never happened. The 123 Agreement represents one of India's greatest achievements since Independence, and also George Bush's only foreign policy success.
Naysayers could say otherwise, but the agreement will play a great role in India's future. The only fault of UPA throughout the process of finalising the agreement was that it did not publicise the pros and cons of it: it remained a run of the mill treaty for most citizens and parliamentarians. Educating the masses about the huge benefits of the deal would have been a priority.
The Opposition stands exposed as far the 123 Agreement goes. The BJP, which really should be asking for the credit for the agreement, has opposed it purely for politics. The Left always opposes America in every possible way: their opposition surprised no one. Mayawati's opposition came as a slight surprise but then again, she is power-hungry and will stop at nothing to come to power.
But at the end, Pranab Mukherjee and Condoleezza Rice signed the agreement in Washington, closing a three-year saga. Manmohan Singh will be remembered for his courage and conviction and the UPA can proudly call the 123 Agreement one of its greatest achievements, and indeed one of India's greatest achievements in its Independent history.