Bush team vows to work for n-deal till the last day

June 18th, 2008 - 11:53 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 18 (IANS) The Bush administration has vowed to work till the last day to get the stalled India-US civil nuclear deal approved by the US Congress, while hoping the next administration too would want to move forward with it. “The bottom line is, from now until Jan 20, we’ll continue to work to support this agreement,” said State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey Tuesday, noting that each passing day leaves less time to complete the voting process.

President George W. Bush, who considers the nuclear deal as a major foreign policy achievement of his administration, demits office at noon on Jan 20, 2009.

“We’ll continue to encourage the Indian government to approve it. And if such time it is approved, whether that is today, tomorrow, or Jan 19th, we will make every effort to move it through Congress,” Casey said.

“And we would certainly hope that the next administration, whoever comes to office in January, would also see this agreement as something fundamentally in America’s interest and want to move forward with it as well.”

When asked if, with the passing of the May end deadline suggested by US officials for India to wrap up its side, the Bush administration now viewed it as an issue for the next administration, Casey said: “Fundamentally, we think that the India Civil Nuclear Agreement is something that’s in the interests of both countries.”

“But, you know, the obstacle has been that the Indian government has some internal political issues that it needs to resolve before it can move forward with it,” he said, referring to the opposition from the Indian coalition government’s leftist supporters that has stalled the deal for close to one year.

“You know, I guess we could all get out our calendars and figure out how many more days Congress is actually in session between now and Jan 20, and how likely it would be that should an agreement be reached at a certain point, you could get it on the calendar and move it to vote and have those votes take place in time, and all that other great stuff.”

Asked if he wouldn’t say now it’s unlikely, the official said: “I would say that it’s less - it’s - we have fewer days now to do it than we did yesterday, and fewer days now than we did two days before it.

“But I really can’t handicap for you, you know, how likely or less likely it is, whether the chances went down half a percent, one percent or zero percent between yesterday and today,” Casey said.

India needs to sign a safeguards agreement for its civilian reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and get the approval of 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) before the US Congress can give its go-ahead to the deal in an up or down vote.

New Delhi has already finalised the agreement with the IAEA, but has not signed yet due to opposition from the Left parties. Later Wednesday, the Left parties meet India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance to discuss the issue.

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