Senior Indian officials had just finished a crucial closed-door briefing on the Indo-US nuclear deal for the 45 countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna. After the 25-minute high-voltage pitch, they expected some questions, a few clarifications. What followed on that fateful August 21 was total silence. It was a dark portent—the opponents already had a group strategy to block the deal with a flood of amendments. And there began another two weeks of agonising, nail-biting suspense in the long and always difficult march to the finishing line.
Indian officials were rattled, even angry at the situation in Vienna—the mayhem of 50 amendments with no room to manoeuvre. After a horribly bruising battle at home, in which PM Manmohan Singh fought for survival, they had banked on Washington to deliver its part of the bargain—an unconditional waiver from NSG rules. But things fell apart, the centre did not hold.