Mukherjee tells Bush of n-deal woes at homeMarch 25th, 2008 - 9:32 am ICT by admin
By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 25 (IANS) India sought to buy more time to implement its “landmark” nuclear deal with the United States as External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee briefed President George Bush about New Delhi’s political compulsions that have stalled it. There was no official word from either side on what transpired at the half an hour meeting Monday with Bush, but hours earlier White House press secretary Dana Perino said the president “is excited to meet” with the Indian minister and “there’s lots of different things to talk about.”
“We have a broad and deep relationship with India on a variety of issues, including the civil nuclear agreement …And I’m sure they’ll talk about other things as well,” she told reporters.
The meeting with Bush was preceded by a 20 minute meeting with his National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley at the White House. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, Joint Secretary (Americas) Gaitri Kumar, Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen and Deputy Chief of Mission Raminder Jassal attended both meetings.
But again there was no indication whether the two sides had been able to find a way out in the face of New Delhi’s dilemma over the deal that has been in limbo for months thanks to adamant opposition from the Indian government ’s Left supporters.
Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was present at the meeting with Bush, later met over dinner presumably to take stock and work out a path forward on the deal that Bush looks at as his major foreign policy initiative comparable with Nixon’s opening to China.
Going by the public comments made by Mukherjee and Rice after a 30-minute formal meeting at the State Department Monday morning it was clear that the two sides were looking beyond the nuclear deal to focus on their “transformed” relationship.
“We are interested in implementing the landmark agreement, which we finalised during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (to US in July 2005) and followed by subsequent visit of President Bush to India (in March 2006)” the Indian minister said.
“But we have some political problems in our country. Currently, we are engaged in resolving those problems,” he said referring to the Indian Left’s opposition to the agreement that’s coming in the way of Bush’s keenness to see it implemented before he leaves office in January 2009.
“Out of four stages, 123 Agreement between India and the USA has been signed. The second stage, to have the approval of the Board of Governors of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in respect of India’s specific safeguard agreement, we are currently engaged with IAEA.”
“The discussions are over, but the agreements are yet to be initialled and approved by the Board of Governors,” Mukherjee said. “In that stage, we are currently engaged with various political parties who are supporters of our coalition government in India. And the discussion is still going on.”
Rice said the US considered the civil nuclear deal a “landmark agreement” and believed it “would be good for both sides and good for the future of non-proliferation, as many experts, including (IAEA Director General) Mohamed ElBaradei, have said.”
“And so we will continue to work on that agreement,” she said. “The Indians are now in a process of working with the IAEA and we’ll follow that progress,” Rice added parrying a question if the deal would have to be given up if it is not completed and sent to US Congress by July, given its electoral calendar.
Focusing on the US-India relationship, she noted it “has broadened and deepened during the time that President Bush and Prime Minister Singh have been in office and have been working to fully express the nature of a relationship that should exist between two of the world’s great, multi-ethnic democracies.”
They had also talked about “the deepening of our economic ties, of our defence cooperation, and the deepening of our dialogue about regional issues,” Rice said referring to the situation in Tibet and Burma.
Mukherjee said they “had quite a satisfactory discussion” on “some areas of our cooperation and shared some parts of the issues arising in our region, shared our individual position.”
“The record number of landmark developments in India-US ties over the last few years would not have been possible without a broad-based convergence of interests and concerns between our two countries,” he said complimenting Rice for her contribution to “the transformation of India-US relations and giving them a strong foundation for the future.
“India is the fastest growing democracy in the world. It is also, perhaps, the fastest growing export market for US business and industry,” Mukherjee said.
“Two-way trade and investment between our two countries is growing along with our cooperation in agriculture, clean energy, environment, science and technology, health and education,” he noted.
“A similar momentum can also be seen in our defence ties and for peaceful use of outer space and other high-technology areas. We believe that the India-US partnership is based on a bedrock of long-term commitments and a shared vision.”
He and Rice had agreed to “maintain the positive momentum” generated particularly by the visits of Manmohan Singh to the US in July 2005 and that of Bush to India in March 2006, Mukherjee said noting “several critical decisions were taken during that visit on a wide spectrum of issues important to both countries.”
“It will be our common endeavour to register progress on all of them,” he said. “There is a broad overlap in our interests and objectives, and we intend to supplement our dialogue with a closer working-level interaction on a regular basis within the Ministry of External Affairs in India and the US State Department.”