US not ready to call ‘critically important’ n-deal dead

April 29th, 2008 - 12:17 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 29 (IANS) The United States considers its civil nuclear deal with India “critically important” and is never going to pronounce it “dead” even as it remains stalled due to opposition from the Indian coalition government’s leftist supporters. “Well, I just want to remind - you often want me to say whether or not we think that this deal is dead,” White House press secretary Dana Perino Monday told a reporter who suggested that the deal may be dead now with time running out for its ratification by the US Congress.

“We are never going to declare it dead because we think it’s critically important,” she said, reflecting the keenness of President George W. Bush to see the deal implemented before he leaves the White House in January. Bush looks at the deal as a major achievement of his administration,

“We are appreciative that the Indians are reconsidering their position, that they continue to have dialogue about it,” Perino said. “And the fact that they are here in Washington talking about it is a good sign.”

She was referring to a recent visit of Abhishek Singhvi, spokesman of Congress party which leads the Indian ruling coalition. He briefed officials and US lawmakers about New Delhi’s political compulsions that had put the deal on the backburner.

Perino’s remarks followed comments from another senior official that it was “definitely feasible” to get the remaining steps on the nuclear deal with India completed if New Delhi approves the implementing 123 agreement that was finalised by the two sides last July.

“I think, if the Indian government approves it, I do think that then what remains is to get an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and with the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG),” Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte told a TV show last Friday.

“But I think those things are definitely feasible,” he said in an interview with Charlie Rose. “But right now the main stumbling block is the internal Indian political process.”

“And they’re going to have to work that out,” the second ranking State Department official said discounting suggestions that the agreement was in trouble because statements by US lawmakers about deadlines imposed by the US election calendar were putting pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The nuclear deal can be implemented only after final approval from US Congress after New Delhi reaches an agreement on India specific safeguards with IAEA and the NSG changes in its rules to let India resume nuclear commerce suspended since its first nuclear test in 1974.

“…the nuclear agreement, at the moment, it’s held up in the Indian political process,” Negroponte said, acknowledging: “The (Indian) government is committed to it”.

“But they’ve got their own coalition politics and political considerations to take into account,” he said, noting: “It’s a democratic country”.

Negroponte, who was the first US Director of National Intelligence, said: “India is an area where we really have had a significant improvement in the relationship with that country. And I think we look at India much more strategically than we used to.”

He listed “reaching out to the Indian subcontinent” and “developing a strategic relationship with India” among “a whole variety of reasons” that made him see the world “quite hopefully and quite optimistically”.

Other officials too have made similar comments reflecting the US viewpoint looking at the nuclear deal as a symbolic centrepiece of the new strategic relationship with India.

But of late with doubts arising about the deal being completed before Bush leaves office, they have also stressed the wide-ranging relationship with India in defence and other fields.

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