Pelosi meets PM, backs n-deal

March 20th, 2008 - 9:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday discussed the progress of the India-US civil nuclear deal with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and assured him about the Democratic Party’s broad support for the deal. Manmohan Singh at his residence hosted lunch for Pelosi and the accompanying bi-partisan delegation of US legislators, mostly Democrats. The entire gamut of India-US relations, including the nuclear deal, were discussed, official sources said.

Pelosi stressed the need for India to conclude the next steps - safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a change in NSG guidelines - so that the deal can be ratified by the US Congress well in time before it gets caught up in election-year legislations, the source said.

Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives and a Democrat with strong views on nuclear non-proliferation, did not set any deadline for India to conclude the deal.

However, she said it would help if India concludes the next steps by May-June so that the deal can be ratified by an up and down vote in the US Congress this July.

The Indian government has yet to bring on board its Communist allies, who are opposed to the deal on grounds that it will make India subservient to the US strategic interests.

Pelosi later met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherkee and discussed his forthcoming visit to Washington that starts Sunday. Mukherjee is likely to meet influential Democrats in Washington and try to get some assurance from them that the deal’s future is secure under a Democratic dispensation.

In line with Democrat leaders like Joseph Biden and John Kerry, who visited India recently, Pelosi assured Indian leaders that the party supported the deal and reiterated the Democrats’ belief in pursuing a vigorous strategic partnership with India.

Besides the nuclear deal, Pelosi and Mukherjee discussed the situation in Tibet in the wake of the reported Chinese crackdown on ethnic Tibetan protesters last week.

India has called for a non-violent and peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue through dialogue.

Pelosi Thursday evening left for Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, to meet the Dalai Lama, who has been blamed by China of allegedly masterminding the violence in Tibet that has claimed at least 16 lives. The Tibetan leader has denied the charge.

China, which is opposed to Pelosi’s proposed meeting with the Dalai Lama, is closely watching her trip to Dharamsala. Pelosi is likely to reiterate the US’ call to China for dialogue with the Dalai Lama after meeting the Tibetan leader Friday.

Pelosi was the driving force behind the US’ decision last year to honour the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Medal, a top US civilian honour. China had protested to that.

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