India-US nuclear deal ‘nearly dead’, Obama ‘highly ambivalent’

June 11th, 2008 - 10:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 11 (IANS) The proposed India-US nuclear deal is almost certainly dead because of delays by New Delhi, as Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama remains “highly ambivalent” about it, a British newspaper Wednesday reported. Asked whether it was now impossible to push the deal through in the dying days of President George Bush’s term, a senior Bush administration official told the Financial Times: “That is probably correct.”

The paper quoted an adviser to Obama as saying the Democratic Party presidential candidate was “highly ambivalent” about the deal. Obama submitted a wrecking amendment to the original bill in 2006.

The paper said the Bush administration has “watched with growing frustration” as New Delhi repeatedly missed deadlines to complete the deal.

It said US officials had hoped until recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would persuade his colleagues, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to face down his government’s Left allies over the deal.

But it said New Delhi has “sat on the deal” for the past 10 months without inviting inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to begin their safeguard inspections in India.

Approval of the IAEA and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is needed before the US Congress can give its go-ahead.

“Even if the Indian government were suddenly to turn around and get the IAEA stage completed, there would be no time for the remaining two stages,” said Ashley Tellis, one of the original architects of the deal and now an adviser to Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain.

The paper quoted senior Indian officials as saying privately that their best chances of reviving the deal would come if McCain, who supports the deal, were to become US president.

The collapse of the deal would jeopardise India’s access to sensitive US technology which could have an impact on defence sales and civil nuclear development.

“If you look at the regime between 1974 [when India conducted its first nuclear test] and 1998 [its second] that would give you some idea of what India would be heading back towards,” Tellis said, adding: “This would be an historic blunder.”

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