Obama or McCain, how will nuclear deal fare?

June 11th, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

By Manish Chand
New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) With Barack Obama winning the Democratic presidential nomination, there are anxieties among the government and strategic circles here that if the nuclear deal is not concluded this year, it will have a tougher time in the event of a Democratic dispensation in Washington. “If the nuclear deal does not go through during the term of the George Bush administration, it will not survive in its present form,” Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary and a former ambassador of India to the US, told IANS.

“If it’s a Democrat, it is almost certain they will have a rethink on 123 (bilateral India-US nuclear agreement) and make sure it’s compatible with their stricter non-proliferation norms,” said Mansingh who served as New Delhi’s envoy to Washington during 2001-2004.

“Democrats are trying to revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unlike the last time when they failed in 1999, if they manage to get CTBT passed in Congress there is no way India can hold out as a lone ranger,” he stressed.

“However, if Senator John McCain of the Republican Party winds, the deal will sail through,” he said.

“With Republicans we are sure about the nuclear deal. But with Democrats we have to wait and watch,” a top official, privy to India-US nuclear negotiations, said, indicating the unease in the government about the fate of the deal under the next US administration.

The July 18, 2005, nuclear deal is currently stalled by strong political opposition to it, including from the Indian government’s Communist allies.

India has yet to clinch a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and win a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group by July this year so that the 123 agreement can be ratified by the US Congress before it heads for its summer recess in August.

With the clock ticking away, the chances of India wrapping up its nuclear deal with the US are looking increasingly remote.

K. Subrahmanyam, a strategic expert who is often consulted by the government, finds such anxieties misplaced.

“Obama voted for the deal. He will not create problems. There will be mischief from the so-called nuclear ayatollahs, but they are now more sober,” he said.

If India manages to win NSG waiver, there will be enormous pressure on the next US administration to complete the deal as they would not like Russia and France walking away with nuclear business, Subrahmanyam told IANS.

Moreover, if Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democrat vice-presidential candidate, Mansingh points out, it will be a “dream ticket” for India.

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