Bush hopes for progress in “very important’ n-deal

June 25th, 2008 - 9:51 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 25 (IANS) As the political stand off over the India-US civil nuclear deal continued in New Delhi, the White House hoped there would be progress over what President George Bush considers a “very important agreement”. “Well, we’d like to see progress in India and that would certainly help our Congress, as well,” White House spokesperson Dana Perino told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s crucial nuclear panel meeting on the deal between the Indian coalition government and its leftist supporters.

The leftist threat to pull the plug on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government if it goes ahead with the deal has stalled the landmark agreement that Bush administration considers a major foreign policy achievement.

“But the President keeps regularly updated on. He thinks it’s a very important agreement,” said Perino when asked if Bush had been briefed on the last ditch efforts in New Delhi to save the deal and if he was trying to get it through the US Congress if it is approved by India.

The White House comments like those of the State Department Monday indicated that while Washington was hoping for the best, it was also getting reconciled to not seeing the deal through during Bush’s tenure with the hope that the next president will back it.

“It certainly gets harder every day that this is delayed,” State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Monday when asked if there was still enough time to get it done before Bush leaves office.

“We’d like to believe that this deal and this agreement is one that can and should be supported by whoever comes into office in January of 2009, but obviously, the next government will have to look at this and make their own decisions on it,” he said.

India and US finalised the implementing 123 agreement last July. But it cannot be operationalised until the US Congress gives it its final approval in an up or down vote. Before that New Delhi needs to sign an India specific safeguards agreement for its civilian reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and get the approval of 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

India has already finalised the agreement with the IAEA, but it has not signed it yet due to persistent opposition by the coalition government’s leftist supporters.

Several US officials as also key lawmakers, including Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman Joseph Biden, who is expected to play a key role in pushing the deal through Congress, have said it would be difficult to get the process completed in an election year unless the 123 agreement reaches it before end June - which now seems highly unlikely.

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