Now, it’s US speaker’s turn to talk n-deal

March 14th, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by admin  

By Manish Chand
New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) As the India-US nuclear deal appears headed for an indefinite delay, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi comes here on a two-day visit next week that will give the Indian government a sense of the deal’s future under a Democratic party administration. “Nancy Pelosi will be here next week several issues will be discussed, including the nuclear deal,” a reliable source told IANS.

“India has to be careful with her as she is a firm supporter of stronger ties with India but has strong personal views on nuclear non-proliferation of issues,” the source said.

Pelosi, an influential Democrat leader and a firm supporter of stronger ties with India, made history two years ago when she became the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives.

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the influential Foreign Relations Committee, and former Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry who visited India recently, asked India to wrap up the deal quickly failing which it might be re-negotiated should the Democrats come to power.

Their pronouncements stressing that it was in India’s interest to conclude the nuclear deal by July this year before the US Congress gets entangled in election-year politics sparked anxieties in India about the fate of the deal under a Democrat dispensation.

The warning put the government here on guard as it stepped up networking with influential Democrats in a bid to ensure that if the deal is not concluded this year, it still can be done next year in its present form should the Democratic Party win the US presidential polls.

The government is planning to project nuclear energy as environment-friendly clean energy to win the over sceptical countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - an argument that will go down well with the Democrats who vigorously support the use of clean energy-efficient technologies.

The recent appointment of Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the nuclear deal Shyam Saran as the special envoy on climate change pointed to the government’s strategy of blending environmental correctness with nuclear energy in its attempt to sell the deal to sceptics abroad.

Despite its ritualistic reiterations from time to time voicing bipartisan support for the deal, some sections in the Democratic Party continue to be critical of the deal which they feel grants India too much in return for too little.

The critics also contend that the deal compromises the US’ commitment to non-proliferation by making a one-time exception for India, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to resume civil nuclear commerce with the world.

Former US president Bill Clinton, spouse of Hillary Clinton, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential bid, Thursday pointed out this when he said the deal could have been stronger on the non-proliferation side.

Speaking via videoconference to a conclave here, Clinton, however, voiced support for the deal, which he said was good from the environmental point of view and stressed that if India insists on revisiting some provisions of the deal then the Democrats would not mind doing so.

The future of the deal will become clearer at a meeting between the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and its Leftist allies Monday when the two discuss the draft of India’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to an understanding between them, the government had agreed that it will go ahead with the deal only after the Left parties approve the draft safeguards pact.

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