India inching towards consensus on n-deal, says Kamal Nath

June 13th, 2008 - 11:25 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 13 (IANS) India is moving inch by inch towards a political consensus over its stalled civil nuclear deal with the US and would arrive there at some point, according to its Commerce Minister Kamal Nath. The minister gave this cryptic reply about the fate of the deal in the face of unrelenting opposition from the Indian coalition government’s leftist supporters, at the US-India Global Partnership Summit, organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC).

“We are trying to evolve a broad political consensus on the issue,” he told TV show host Charlie Rose at the event. “That’s what we did on economic reforms.”

India was moving forward on the issue, the minister said, describing the nuclear deal as basically an energy agreement, which would help India’s energy security while recognising India’s responsibility record of non-proliferation.

Noting that there were apprehensions about the agreement in both countries, Kamal Nath said: “We are moving towards a political consensus inch by inch. At some point we will arrive at that.”

Earlier, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, asked the anxious business executives to let New Delhi come to a decision on the nuclear deal on its own as Indian and American interests were so parallel.

“I have been involved in encouraging India towards the nuclear deal,” said the elder statesman. “It’s now an Indian problem”.

India “does not need any lectures. It understands the imperatives of each decision,” he said. “When the decision is made, we will either welcome it or live with it.”

But no matter what decision India takes, the relations between the two countries would be stronger, Kissinger said.

Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen noted that India and US had finalised the implementing 123 agreement as also the necessary safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“The building blocks of civil nuclear cooperation are in place. I sincerely hope that we take it to its logical conclusion.”

Apart from the agreement with the IAEA, which it has not signed yet due leftist parties’ opposition, India also needs to get the approval of 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) before the US Congress can give its go-ahead to the deal.

US officials have time and again reminded Delhi that it would be difficult to get Congressional approval for the implementing 123 agreement in an election year unless it comes up before the legislature before end June.

USIBC Chairperson Indra K. Nooyi said if India continues on its current growth path, then its energy demand will double by 2030. By then it will have overtaken Japan as the world’s largest net importer of oil, after the US and China.

As India’s energy needs will be mostly met by imports, it raised serious questions about the security of the security of the energy supply.

“It also lends support to the rationale for India to end its nuclear isolation and engage the world in civil nuclear cooperation,”said the India-born CEO of the $40 billion softdrink major PepsiCo.

The summit honoured Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman & CEO of Bharati Enterprises, Ustad Zakir Hussain, tabla maestro, and Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express, for their respective contributions in bringing India and the US closer together.

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