The French-Indian Un Deux Trois Agreement?

You’d think that after all the recent drama over the Indian nuclear safeguard agreement, the news that the IAEA Board of Governors approved the deal last Friday would make a splash. But it seemed to pass under the radar. Outside of India, that is, where opponents of the deal are up in arms because it puts India at the mercy of both IAEA inspections and the Hyde Act’s prohibition on further nuclear testing, with no guarantees for nuclear fuel supplies in the event of interruptions. In other words, while most people are worried that India’s exemption from the NPT undermines non-proliferation, the Indian opposition is worried that it strengthens it.

The Indian safeguard agreement, which should not be confused with the U.S.-India 123 Agreement, still has to gain approval by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, at which point the U.S. deal, but also any other, could be approved bilaterally. Which might explain why today’s news also got some attention in France, where nuclear giant Areva is already floating plans to spin off an Indian subsidiary to enter the Indian market “in a big way.”

Given that Congress might not have enough time to pass the 123 Agreement before its fall recess, it’s very possible that the French will reap the benefits of President Bush most significant strategic success. How’s that for irony?