Little time for US Congress to approve 123 agreement: former US envoy

September 12th, 2008 - 10:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 12 (IANS) Former US ambassador Frank Wisner said Friday that there was very little time to get the bilateral India-US agreement on civil nuclear cooperation through the US Congress.“I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does,” replied Wisner to a question on whether the agreement will be approved by the US Congress.

“The main problem is that there is very little time. The Congress is ending its session this month and I’m not sure if there will be a lameduck session,” he said on the sidelines of delivering a lecture on the future of India-US elections, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

On Thursday, US President George Bush asked the Congress to approve the deal, known as the 123 agreement. This comes a week after the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed by consensus to give India a waiver from its guidelines that prohibits trade with non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

He pointed out that as per the guidelines, the agreement needed a period of 30 days in Congress before it is taken up. With the presidential elections to be held in November, the Congress will be winding its current session Sep 26.

The removal of the clause for a month-long scrutiny, he said, would need “an exceptional waiver”.

Wisner, who was US envoy to India from 1994 to 1997, said that it was “too premature to use terms such as natural allies and strategic partners to describe India-US ties”.

“There are a lot of hard questions on issues like the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan that we need to address,” he said, adding that the two nations would also have differing view on countries like Iran and Myanmar.

The former envoy-turned-businessman said there was still possibility of the relationship going awry.

“We can make very bad mistakes. We have made terrible mistakes in the recent past, for example during the Doha Round,” he said.

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