Sen, key player in n-deal, to stay on

February 24th, 2008 - 11:35 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Not wishing “to change horses while traversing mid-stream”, especially in the contest of India’s talks with the UN nuclear watchdog reaching the last lap, the Prime Minister’s Office gave Ronen Sen, India’s ambassador to the US, a one-year extension, according to highly placed sources. Though the 64-year-old diplomat has been in the US since August 2004 and was in the eye of a storm over his “headless chicken” remark for which parliament houses censured him, the government decided to field him as a key player in the unfinished business of the nuke deal.

“Sure, many names were thought of, including Shyam Saran, a former foreign secretary and the prime minister’s special envoy on the nuclear deal, but we have decided to stay with him (Ronen Sen),” a source told IANS.

“It is a bad call to change horses while traversing mid-stream,” a senior bureaucrat succinctly concluded.

The government felt that his continuance would certainly be helpful in the successful conclusion of the deal.

India’s negotiations at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, have entered the make-or-break stage and the government is still hopeful of pushing the nuclear deal through despite stiff opposition from its Left allies.

Sen and Saran have been key interlocutors in the crucial nuclear negotiations from the Indian side.

“This is the principal reason why the government, after much deliberation and considering other senior diplomats for the coveted post, has decided to let Sen continue in Washington,” an official said.

One major factor weighing in Sen’s favour, said the official sources, was that he was aware of the nitty-gritty and a replacement at this time did not augur well.

Sen’s term was coming to an end March 31 and reports in January said he had declined an extension. He even met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in January.

The names of Saran, envoy to Pakistan Satyabrata Pal and ambassador to Germany Meera Shanker were doing the rounds as possible replacement for Sen.

India is likely to conclude a safeguards pact with IAEA over the next few weeks.

The US has time and again reminded India of the clock ticking away in view of the presidential polls this year.

The 123 civil nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the US has to be ratified by the US Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) has to change its guidelines before global nuclear commerce resumes with India.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is, meanwhile, scheduled to visit the US from March 23.

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