N-deal unlikely to get cold under new US president: Boucher

April 24th, 2008 - 12:53 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 24 (IANS) The next US president, be it a Republican or a Democrat, is unlikely to pose a hurdle to the stalled India-US nuclear deal even if it does not go through during the watch of President George W. Bush. A senior US official who has worked under both previous Democratic and the current Republican administrations indicated this Wednesday when asked at a briefing how the deal was likely to play out under Republican John McCain or Democrats Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t know,” responded Richard Boucher, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia. But he also did not think it was a political issue and enjoyed strong bipartisan support as evident from the overwhelming vote for the Hyde Act, the US enabling law.

All the three presidential candidates in the fray had voiced “strong support” for US-India relationship, including in the nuclear area, Boucher noted.

But a change of guard would necessitate taking a few steps afresh, he said, noting that the US election imposes a certain calendar on the ratification process.

“Every day that goes by makes it harder,” he said citing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairperson Joe Biden’s statement in New Delhi that unless the US Congress gets the deal by June, it would be difficult to get it approved by July.

“We fully support it,” Boucher said. The US is still working hard on the difficulties that have arisen in its path, he said, but “we respect the democratic process” the deal must go through in India.

The nuclear deal has been stalled due to opposition from the Indian government’s Leftist supporters.

New Delhi has to also complete the process of securing an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA and a nod from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - two requirements before the nuclear deal can be put before the US Congress for its final approval.

Asked to comment on the India’s ruling Congress party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi’s assertion here that India was bound by only the bilateral 123 agreement and not the contentious Hyde Act, Boucher conceded: “The 123 agreement binds India and the US. That’s the deal”.

However, he saw no inconsistency between the implementing 123 agreement and the Hyde Act. The enabling US law makes it possible to do it, Boucher said, noting it gave the Bush administration authority “to negotiate the 123 agreement - the deal that binds India and the US”.

Singhvi, who was here to tell the American government and the foreign policy establishment why the deal has been put on the backburner, reiterated that India was bound by only the 123 agreement and not the prescriptive provisions of the US enabling Hyde Act, including those relating to India’s relations with Iran.

The US president too had made an explicit declaration that provisions relating to a congruent foreign policy, dealing with Iran, sending troops to Iraq or non-proliferation were non-binding.

India and US agree on what binds India, and fears about the Hyde act in India and some interpretations of it in the US should not be a cause of worry, Singhvi said, asking the critics “not to let the perfect to be the enemy of the good” by judging it with non-existent ideal standards.

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