‘Next US president will think twice if India delays n-deal’

June 25th, 2008 - 8:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 25 (IANS) An influential US daily has warned that if Indian politicians cannot find a way to resolve the deadlock over the India-US nuclear deal, the next US administration will think twice before trying anything like it. “India is clearly destined for a greater role on the world stage, and there are sound reasons to hope that it will increasingly find itself in sync with the United States as its influence grows,” the Washington Post said Wednesday in an editorial titled: “Can India Say Yes?”

Noting that the India’s coalition government and the deal’s Left opponents were scheduled to meet Wednesday for one last round of negotiations, the Post noted “prospects for agreement are bleak” as “New Delhi comes to a crossroads over nuclear cooperation with the United States”.

“But if New Delhi’s politicians cannot find a way to say yes to such a clearly advantageous agreement with a natural ally, the next US administration no doubt will think twice before trying anything like it,” it warned.

“India, a culturally diverse and economically booming democracy of more than 1 billion people, and America share political values and strategic priorities - such as blunting Chinese military power and resisting Islamist terrorism.

These considerations led the George W. Bush administration to pursue a “strategic partnership”, the heart of which is a far-reaching nuclear cooperation agreement”, it said.

Citing the various advantages to India, the daily suggested that if anything, the accord is stacked in New Delhi’s favour, and asked: “Why, then, is India balking at the deal, the final contours of which were settled almost a year ago?”

“The problem is that India’s old-style domestic politics lags behind its new international opportunities,” the Post said noting that if the “Communists quit, Mr. (Manmohan) Singh’s government will fall, and his Congress party would have to face voters with inflation at a 13-year high.

“And there might not be time to get the accord through this US Congress, even if the Communists unexpectedly back down - or if Mr. Singh decides that sticking to the deal is worth the risks of a new election, as some recent reports from New Delhi suggest he will,” it said.

Another daily, the Washington Times, suggested “top US officials and private analysts are already talking as if the agreement, intended to be a centrepiece of President Bush’s second-term foreign policy agenda, has little chance of passing before Bush leaves office in January”.

“You can’t quite say it’s dead yet,” it said citing Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association and a critic of the nuclear pact. “But it’s somewhere between the intensive care unit and the morgue right now,” he said.

Although a revised deal could be resurrected in 2009, a new US administration and new Congress will need time to consider the deal, the daily said.

“But US officials are already trying to minimize the fallout from the possible collapse of what was intended to be the symbolic and economic core of a new relationship between Washington and New Delhi,” it added.

Michael A. Levi and Charles D. Ferguson, fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the US administration and Congress should push for a more modest agreement, warning in a study earlier this month that outright rejection of the deal “would have a real and negative effect on the bilateral relationship”.

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