India tells US: Can’t hold up n-deals with other nations for long

September 17th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) India is putting subtle diplomatic pressure on the US, telling Washington it was not prepared to put its agreements on nuclear cooperation with other countries on hold indefinitely unless it acts to get early approval by Congress on the bilateral 123 agreement.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to meet US President George W. Bush in Washington on September 25. There is a growing optimism in both the capitals that the nuclear deal may be ready for signature when the two leaders meet.

But this can happen only if the agreement that is now before the US Congress gets the final approval through an “up-down” vote in both the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

“Though India has put its agreements with other countries on nuclear cooperation on hold, it cannot be seen as an open-ended wait,” official sources told IANS.

“The onus is now squarely on the US to ensure the 123 agreements runs through the US Congress and is ready for signature at the earliest,” a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, added.

Technically, India is not prevented from doing business in civil nuclear energy with other countries after the waiver it got from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in Vienna on Sep 6.

But politically, it has constraints from doing so since Bush has taken the initiative of not only putting in place the 123 agreement, but also in ensuring India got the waiver from the 45-member NSG.

US corporations are also eyeing nuclear business estimated at anything between $40 billion to $100 bn with India now that it has got the waiver from the global nuclear cartel to conduct trade.

However, India has been giving out subtle hints to the US that if the nuclear deal got delayed any further, it will be perhaps be the American companies that will lose out in getting into the Indian civil nuclear market.

Manmohan Singh will also visit France when he embarks on his 10-day long journey beginning September 22.

France, a major player in the field of civil nuclear energy, is keen to enter into nuclear trade with India. The two sides have “initialed” an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, but are yet to conclude it.

This was done necessarily with a prior agreement with the US government that India’s nuclear cooperation deals with France and Russia will be kept on hold till the 123 agreement ran its full course in the US. Since most of the other things are now in place, the proposed agreement needs the final nod from the US Congress.

Manmohan Singh, who begins his 10-day visit Sep 22, will go to Frankfurt, New York, Washington, Marseilles and Paris before returning to Delhi Oct 1.

His visit to Washington is only for six hours and he is scheduled to return to New York after his meeting with Bush at the White House, followed by a working dinner on Sep 25.

On Tuesday, French external trade minister Anne Marie Idrac said the NSG waiver has opened the way for signing a bilateral agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation between India and France.

“We hope the cooperation will begin as soon as possible,” the minister said.

Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has said the NSG waiver has opened opportunities for nuclear trade between India and any other country within the parameters of broad NSG guidelines.

“With France having the maximum number of reactors in the world, India would be looking for the best opportunities in any case,” Nath said.

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