Top US officials meet BJP leaders over N-deal

November 14th, 2007 - 3:03 am ICT by admin  
US Ambassador to India David Mulford called on BJP chief Rajnath Singh at his residence in New Delhi, and understood to have discussed what has been termed as a landmark bilateral cooperation agreement.

Meanwhile, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani at his residence in the Capital to garner the party’s support on the issue.

Mulford had earlier met Advani and India’s former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra to discuss the nuclear agreement, which is seen as increasingly important in boosting strategic relations between Washington and New Delhi.

The civilian nuclear cooperation deal aims to lift a three-decade ban on sales of US nuclear fuel and reactors to India, imposed after the latter conducted a nuclear test in 1974, while staying out of non-proliferation agreements.

The deal has brought the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led UPA government to the brink of collapse as Left parties that provide outside support to the coalition government threatened to withdraw its support if the pact is pursued.

The communists have rejected the deal, saying it hurts India’s sovereignty and imposes US hegemony.

The deal faces an informal US deadline related to securing approval of America’s Congress well before presidential polls next year.

Last week, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, Washington’s main negotiator for the pact, said India did not have an unlimited amount of time.

The Bush Administration wants the agreement to go to Congress for its backing by the end of the year, he said in New York on Tuesday.

That deadline would be virtually impossible to meet if India does not move now to secure approvals from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Last week, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that the talks with the Left parties on the Indo-US deal would continue beyond the November 16 meeting.

“We are working to reconcile a position… We are trying to get a solution. Let us see what is the outcome of the meeting on November 16,” Mukherjee, who is the convenor of the special UPA-Left committee, said, adding that it would not be the last meeting with the Left on the issue.

Expressing the hope of sorting out the differences with the Left parties, Mukherjee asserted that divergence views would be narrowed down, and rejected the viewpoint that the nuclear deal was dead.

The special committee of the UPA and the Left, formed to resolve disagreements between the two sides over the nuclear deal, held deliberations for the fifth time on the issue on October 22.

They decided to continue the talks even as the ‘unofficial’ deadline for India to initiate formal negotiations with the IAEA for country-specific agreements ends in October.

There has been a general opinion that the bilateral agreement could be difficult to operationalise since Left parties are trying to woo the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) to launch a joint opposition to the deal.

Three more steps are required to operationalise the deal that include, safeguard agreement with the IAEA, amendment in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group’s charter and the passing of the 123-agreement by the US Congress. (ANI)

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