India n-deal could be wrapped up in two days: US (Roundup)

September 26th, 2008 - 1:32 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh
Washington, Sep 25 (IANS) As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Washington for talks with President George W. Bush, the US Thursday raised hopes, saying it was “not impossible” to wrap up its nuclear deal with India in “the next couple of days” despite national preoccupation with the worst financial crisis in decades.”It is not impossible; it (nuclear deal) could happen in the next couple of days,” US ambassador to India David Mulford told reporters at the Andrews Air Force base in Maryland, near here, after receiving Manmohan Singh.

“It is impossible to predict. It is not impossible; it could happen in the current session of the US Congress (that ends Sep 26),” said Mulford.

“It is a tribute to the US Congress that despite preoccupation with the financial crisis, they (the Congress) have been able to move forward on the nuclear deal,” Mulford said even as the Bush administration stepped up its offensive to sell $700 billion bail-out package to save the Wall Street from collapse.

“There is a reasonable prospect for action by the US Congress. It is a tribute to the strength of the India-US relationship,” the US envoy said amid anxiety in the Indian camp about the chances of wrapping up the nuclear deal during Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US that ends Saturday.

“We are focusing very closely on what is happening in the US Congress. We have not yet completed. It’s in the hands of the US Congress,” the envoy said.

Soon after Manmohan Singh arrived in Washington on the day-long visit, Mulford updated him on the progress of the nuclear deal and intensified efforts by the Bush administration to fast-track the approval for the 123 bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-2 in favour of the accord at a business meeting Tuesday afternoon and sent the deal to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for scheduling a vote in the full Senate.

Manmohan Singh will meet Bush later in the day and discuss an entire spectrum of issues ranging from security, defence and civilian nuclear cooperation to education and health.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will skip the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Bush as she works the phone from New York to get the nuclear deal done.

Rice “just took a look at her schedule” and “felt as though it was for her best to stay up here (in New York),” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Wednesday as the administration kept up its push to win Congressional approval for the deal.

Instead of Rice, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, “who has been deeply involved in this issue as well”, would represent the State Department at the White House meetings between Bush, Manmohan Singh and their top aides.

Rice was to join Bush at his “working dinner” with the Indian leader flying in from New York for just a few hours to meet the man with whom he crafted the landmark nuclear agreement in a joint statement July 18, 2005.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will be among others present from the American side.

From the Indian side, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the nuclear deal and climate change Shyam Saran and India’s ambassador to US Ronen Sen will attend the meeting.

The spokesman said the administration was doing everything to get Congressional approval for this “very important step for American foreign policy and national security” even as the legislature grapples with the crisis to save the US financial system.

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