Ackerman to discuss n-deal, Iran during India visit

July 2nd, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) With the government likely to decide soon on the fate of the India-US nuclear deal, US Congressman Gary Ackerman comes here Wednesday night with a clear message that New Delhi needs to act fast if it wants to wrap up the deal this year. Ackerman is likely to meet External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshnakar Menon, officials said.

He will discuss with them a host of issues, including the nuclear deal, the Iranian nuclear issue and further intensification of economic and defence ties between India and the US.

The 64-year-old Ackerman, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans and a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, is also likely to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He is leading a six-member bi-partisan delegation of US Congressmen on a two-day visit to India.

Ackerman, who has batted for the nuclear deal during Congressional debates, is likely to underline the need for New Delhi to conclude the next steps to make the deal operational, failing which it will be difficult for the Congress to endorse it this year.

“The clock has run out on our side of the border, because the clock has run out on their side,” said Ackerman, chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, in an interview Tuesday.

“They’re not going to be able to do it in time for us to act in this calendar year and certainly not during President Bush’s administration,” he said.

The Indian government may be heading for a parting of ways with its Communist allies, which could happen as early as Friday, if it decides to take the nuclear deal forward by concluding a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The discussions will also focus on the future of the nuclear deal under the Democratic dispensation if the deal does not go through this year and Barack Obama wins the November presidential elections.

Besides the deal, the festering Iranian nuclear issue will also figure in discussions.

Ahead of his visit, Ackerman, who opposes India’s interest in concluding a gas pipeline project with Iran and Pakistan, had said that India needed to do more than “just implement the UN approved sanctions” to “isolate” Tehran on its nuclear programme.

Significantly, Ackerman comes just a day after Narayanan met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad in Tehran and underlined India’s commitment to the $7.5 billion pipeline project.

Ackerman, an Indophile and advocate of Indian causes in the Congress, is also the recipient of Padma Bhushan - India’s third highest civilian honour.

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