US tries to allay Hyde Act anxieties in India

March 4th, 2008 - 4:37 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) A day after India said it was evolving political consensus on the nuclear deal, the US Tuesday sought to allay anxieties about the Hyde Act, saying it was a US domestic legislation in contrast to the 123 bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement. “I don’t want to go into technicalities. The Hyde Act is a domestic legislation. The 123 is an international agreement,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Richard Boucher told reporters when asked whether the Hyde Act would apply to the India-US civil nuclear cooperation pact.

Boucher, a two-day visit to the Indian capital, met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and discussed bilateral and global issues including the nuclear deal that is hailed as the symbol of transformed ties between India and the US.

In his discussions with Menon, Boucher reminded India that time was running out for the nuclear deal and stressed the need for India to wrap up the safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so that the deal can be ratified by the US Congress before July-end.

Showing sensitivity to domestic politics in India, Boucher was careful enough not to spell out any deadline for wrapping up the nuclear deal, official sources told IANS.

Boucher also expressed hope that India would be able to find a way out to take forward the nuclear deal, which aims at ending the country’s global nuclear isolation, the source said.

Boucher’s meeting with Menon and other senior officials of the external affairs ministry took place a day after the White House reiterated in Washington that it was hopeful of India “working around internal political issues” so that “this important and historic deal can be concluded” between the two sides.

Boucher’s emphasis that the Hyde Act and the 123 agreement were different was aimed at allaying anxieties of the Left parties and opposition parties in India who contend that the Hyde Act seeks to undermine India’s sovereignty and strategic deterrence.

Boucher’s clarification stands out in contrast to some of recent remarks made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasising the centrality of the Hyde Act to civil nuclear cooperation pact with India.

In a statement to parliament Monday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee underlined that the government was trying to evolve “broad political consensus” for the nuclear deal and sought to delink the Hyde Act from the 123 agreement.

“Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that the Hyde Act is an enabling provision that is between the executive and the legislative organs of the US government,” Mukherjee said.

“India’s rights and obligations regarding civil nuclear cooperation with the US arise only from the bilateral 123 Agreement that we have agreed upon with the US,” he said.

The next few weeks could prove to be crucial to the fate of the nuclear deal as India has nearly finalised the text of the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and is waiting for a green signal from the Left parties who virtually hold the veto over the deal.

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