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Home > News > Report

Indo-US N-deal referred to governments for review

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | July 20, 2007 22:59 IST
Last Updated: July 21, 2007 03:27 IST

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Coverage: Indo-US nuclear deal

India and the US on Friday night reported 'substantial progress' in official level talks over the nuclear deal and decided to refer the issue to respective governments for 'final review'.

In a joint statement issued after four days of intense negotiations, the two sides said they look forward to the completion of the 'remaining steps and to the conclusion of the historic initiative'.

'The discussions were constructive and positive and both Under Secretary (Nicholas) Burns and Foreign Secretary (Shivshankar) Menon are pleased with the substantial progress made on the outstanding issues in the 123 Agreement', it said. 'We will now refer the issue to our governments for final review'.

Earlier on, Administration and Indian diplomatic sources had expressed optimism that the language to translate policy formulations into legalese would be wrapped up Friday afternoon.

Late Thursday night, after Menon and his team returned from another round of  talks with Burns and the US negotiators -- which followed the meeting the Indian delegation led by National Security Adviser M K Narayanan had with Vice President Dick Cheney, who 'extended political support for the idea of  reprocessing', which had remained the most contentious issue that had stalled the agreement for months -- there was all-round optimism that a deal was very much in the works and the Indian team when they finally return on Friday -- one day after their original scheduled departure -- they would be going back home having gotten a good agreement that in no way compromised India's national and strategic interests.

The sources however had said that the joint statement has not gone into specifics of the details on each and every issue and the exact language because 'it first has to be sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security for their review and approval before the details can be released to the public'.

The confidence that a deal would be reached was being expressed by Burns, too, on Thursday evening, even before the final round of negotiations on the fourth successive day began, with the chief US interlocutor of the deal saying 'we have overcome many of the outstanding issues', and that what was left was 'to go the extra couple of feet'.

Using a baseball idiom when the game goes into overtime or when it needs yet another play for a decision to be forthcoming, Burns said, "We are in an extra innings. We haven't given up and I'm very hopeful we might have an 

But over the the US Congress, Congressman Ed Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and the co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Nonproliferation -- the leading critic of the US-India civilian nuclear agreement who has been vehemently opposed to the deal and has vowed to scuttle it, served notice that he intends to do everything in his power to stop the deal from being consummated when it is sent up to Congress.

According to Congressional sources, Markey had been quite pleased when the 123 Agreement had been stalled for so long and had believed that the contentious issue of repcrocessing, particularly the prior consent issue, was unlikely to be  resolved and the deal would come apart even before it could be sent up to Congress for an up and down vote.

But apparently informed by his sources that the high-level US and Indian negotiators this time around --with the personal interventions and imprimatur of both Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--seemingly had resolved the stark differences and were on the verge of wrapping up the agreement, argued that 'the idea that the incredibly generous 2006 Hyde Act is too restrictive is absurd', and warned that 'if President Bush negotiates an agreement with India that violates the letter or spirit of the Hyde Act, he will  be putting Congressional approval at serious risk.'

Markey said, "I still believe that the Hyde Act deals a significant blow to our nuclear non-proliferation efforts," but acknowledged that the legislation 'does contain a number of minimal conditions which must be met for nuclear 
cooperation to go forward'.

But in reiterating his warning, he said, "If the Bush Administration brings Congress an agreement that breaks the law, it should be surprised if it gets rejected."

With PTI inputs