Bush appreciates Manmohan Singh’s commitment to n-dealJuly 11th, 2008 - 10:58 am ICT by IANS
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 11 (IANS) The White House has expressed appreciation for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s commitment to and willingness to move forward with the “historic” India-US civil nuclear deal despite the threat to his government. “It’s a historic agreement, this strategic partnership, and we think the initiative will help strengthen global non-proliferation efforts,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters Thursday. “So it’s a positive thing and we appreciate the commitment by the Prime Minister.”
Fratto, however, would not confirm if President George Bush had assured Manmohan Singh during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan that the US would help India get the deal through the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
“They did talk about the nuclear deal,” he said. “But on that specific, that’s not something I could confirm, but we do appreciate Prime Minister Singh’s willingness to move forward with this deal.”
Apart from completing a safeguards agreement for its civil nuclear facilities with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), India also needs to secure approval from the 45-nation NSG, which governs global nuclear trade, before the implementing 123 agreement comes up for final approval in the US Congress.
Previously US officials including, Nick Burns Washington’s former key interlocutor on the nuclear deal, have committed to be “India’s sherpa” at the NSG to push the deal through.
But the enabling Hyde Act that requires the Congress to be in session for 30 work days to consider the implementing 123 agreement may come in the way of its approval before the end of the year.
There are less than 40 work days available before the planned Sep 26 adjournment of the current House before the November election. Democratic leaders are also opposed to re-convening the current Congress for a so-called “lame duck” session after the November election, because they would not like to give Bush credit for the deal that otherwise has bipartisan support.
While critics of the deal, including some Democrats accuse the Bush administration of diluting US non-proliferation policy, those in favour have warned that if Congress fails to act this year, India can turn to other suppliers and the US nuclear industry could potentially lose billions of dollars in business.
Democrat Edward J. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the founder and co-chair of the House Bipartisan Task Force on non-proliferation, for one called the India-IAEA safeguards agreement as “worse than useless; it is a sham.”
Expressing shock at what he called “the loopholes” in the agreement, he said: “Safeguards agreements should ensure a bright red line between civilian and military nuclear facilities. Instead, this agreement lays out a path for India to unilaterally remove international safeguards from reactors.”
Contrary to everything the Bush administration has claimed about the US-India nuclear deal, if this safeguards agreement is approved, India will be allowed to make electricity one day and bombs the next,” he alleged.
The Bush administration and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will need to answer to Congress as to why this safeguards agreement is the complete opposite from what they told us it would be, Markey said.