India must decide on n-deal with US: Burns

February 26th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) The key US negotiator for the civil nuclear deal with India says the July deadline set by American lawmakers is “realistic”, but New Delhi has to decide to go forward. “This is a very substantial deal. It is going to be good for India and the United States,” Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said Monday. “We want to see it go forward.”

The timeline of July suggested by Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, during a recent meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “is realistic in that the initiative will have to get to Congress before the summer recess which is at the end of July.”

“…That is our appreciation of the timeline as well,” Burns told reporters after addressing the Council on Foreign Relations here. “So at some point India will need to decide to go forward.”

If the civilian nuclear initiative did not go forward, it will be “several years or many years” before another attempt is made, Burns warned, describing the nuclear deal as the “the symbolic centrepiece” of relations between India and the US.

There is bipartisan support for the deal in Congress, Burns said, and a “very strong majority of countries internationally” are strong supporters of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) granting exemption to India.

“We think it is a good deal and it is now up to India and we trust it will make the best decision,” Burns said, describing the implementing 123 Accord finalised last July as “a fair and a good agreement”.

“It also ends India’s 35 years of isolation in the civilian nuclear field and to be treated fairly and equitably by the international community.

“It is very important India have the opportunity to derive the benefits of nuclear energy and to be treated fairly by the rest of the world. And that’s what we have been arguing for,” he said.

“The only way India can emerge from this nuclear isolation is to have this agreement go forward,” said the State department official who is leaving March end for “personal reasons”, but has agreed to continue to work on the India file to steer the deal to conclusion.

However, Burns maintained that India-US relations are going to remain very strong. “I think the US-India relations is going to remain very strong. We have a lot of areas we can work in and we have gone through a lot together.

“I think the future is very bright.”

Burns comments came hours after White House press secretary Dana Perino said Washington was in touch with New Delhi over the landmark deal at various levels.

“We are in touch with different levels of government throughout - here and at the National Security Council and the State Department,” she told reporters Monday when asked if President George W. Bush is in touch with anybody in Delhi to get the deal done.

“Well, we have a little bit more time, obviously, on the calendar before the end of the President’s term,” said Perino commenting on the reported July deadline for the deal set by a group of US senators during a recent visit to New Delhi.

“But if there’s internal pressure inside India for them to move more quickly, I think that’s good.”

“And I saw a report today that said that there are some elements within India that are very supportive of getting the deal done,” she added.

The deal still has to clear a couple of hurdles before it reaches the US Congress. After reaching an agreement with the IAEA for India specific safeguards for its civilian nuclear reactors, New Delhi has to contend with a possible “veto” from its Left allies before the government approaches the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

It’s only after India gets clearance from the NSG that governs global civilian nuclear trade that the implementing 123 Agreement finalised last July can go for a final approval before the US Congress.

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