The onus of n-deal now on Capitol Hill: US media

July 23rd, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Parveen Chopra
New York, July 23 (IANS) With New Delhi having done its part to salvage the nuclear deal, it is now the US Congress’ turn to shake India’s outstretched hand, major American newspapers said Wednesday while doubting whether Congress will be able to ratify the pact before the Bush administration bows out. The Washington Post said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s gamble of trading Communist support for that of a smaller regional party paid off when his government survived a parliamentary confidence vote. “Now, the question is whether the pact can survive the American political process,” it asked.

Stating that on balance, the nuclear deal is in the US’ interest, the Washington daily said: “Congress should find the time to say yes — in a lame-duck session after the November election, if necessary”.

Buying into Bush administration’s logic that the benefits of a “strategic partnership” with India outweigh the risks of waiving the old rules, the paper said, “Unlike Pakistan, India has developed its nuclear arsenal without leaking materials or know-how to others. Perhaps the fact that India is a democracy that shares not only values but interests — checking China, fighting Islamist terrorism — with the United States matters more than its signature on a treaty.”

The likely outcome of Congress rejecting the deal is that India, freshly approved as a customer for technology and fuel by the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, will simply buy its requirement of nuclear capacity from France or Russia, the Post said.

In a front page lead story, The Wall Street Journal said that US businesses that see a big market in India have pinned high hopes on the deal’s ratification, but a short, packed calendar on Capitol Hill meant a vote was likely to be put off until next year.

Both presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, have, however suggested they favour the deal, the financial daily added.

According to US legislators and analysts, approval of the deal is more likely in the new Congress that takes office in January. The Journal quoted Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, as saying the deal’s chances are brighter in the next Congress, where Democrats are likely to have a majority in both houses.

“Democrats tend to be more antinuclear but equally, pro-India,” he said but doubted the deal would be the first priority of the new leadership.

But the longer the US delays the deal, added the Journal, “the more likely that Singh’s coalition could fall out of power. His Congress party has fared poorly in a series of state elections this year.”

For now, after winning the confidence vote, the Singh government may seize the chance to jumpstart its stalled economic agenda, which includes further opening India to foreign companies, the Journal wrote.

The New York Times quoted Manmohan Singh as saying that the confidence vote on the nuclear deal would signal to the world that “India is prepared to take its rightful place in the comity of nations.”

The paper added that the deal was hailed by Singh government and the Bush administration as a centerpiece of an effort to deepen a partnership between the two countries. But it pointed out that the deal has been divisive in Congress as well as an exception to American policies against the spread of nuclear materials.

Besides, the paper found that India’s strategic relationship with the US “remains troubled by several major disagreements, including Indian policy on Iran and Myanmar.”

“India may be ‘emerging,’ but it will be a very high-maintenance friend when it comes to any strategic partnership,” Stephen P. Cohen, a senior fellow at a think tank in Washington, was quoted as saying by the Times.

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