N-deal likely under new US president: expert

April 30th, 2008 - 12:08 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 30 (IANS) An American expert on South Asia, Bruce Riedel, who has served in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), says the stalled US-India nuclear agreement is likely to be approved next year under a new US president. “This agreement is probably one that is going to slip over into the next administration,” Riedel, senior fellow at Brookings Institution, said in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, a US think tank.

Asked if there is any chance that a new US president would want to scuttle the nuclear deal held up due to opposition from Indian coalition government’ s leftist supporters, he said: “I certainly hope that wouldn’t happen.”

“This deal is the basis for strong US-Indian relationship,” he said. “There is certainly a possibility that a new administration may try to strengthen the non-proliferation parts of it and might, particularly if the Democrats are elected, try to revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).”

“But the first step there of course would be for the United States to ratify the CTBT. I don’t think we could go to the Indians and ask them to do something that we haven’t done so far,” Riedel said.

Indians are determined to push the nuclear deal forward, Riedel said. He was of the view that sooner or later the Manmohan Singh government will force a showdown with the Communists over the issue, but probably closer to the next scheduled Indian election in May 2009.

The expert, who has also worked for the Bill Clinton government, sees the improvement in US-India relations as a major accomplishment of the Bush administration, which carried forward progress made during Clinton’s presidency.

“When it came in, the Bush team recognised that India was going to be one of the key powers of the 21st century, an emerging potential power, certainly a regional power, but perhaps a global power as well,” he said.

“The Bush people have taken it further with the India-US civilian nuclear deal, which offers the opportunity to remove one of the main stumbling blocks to US-Indian rapprochement-the nuclear non-proliferation issue,” Riedel said.

Describing the change in India in the last decade as one of the most revolutionary developments in the world, he noted: “The US-India trade relationship is growing. US trade with India has been increasing and US investment in India has been growing.”

The US has demonstrated in the last decade or so, first under Clinton, then under Bush, that it’s a solid partner for working with India, he said.

In India, there is still resistance to stronger US-Indian relations with the Communists very much opposed to it, Riedel said. “But there is a very large consensus between the Congress Party and the main opposition - the BJP -that US-Indian relations will be one of the central pillars of India’s foreign policy.”

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