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N-deal: Experts urge Senate leader to act soon

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 22, 2008 12:07 IST

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Indo-US Nuclear Tango

Longtime American experts and scholars on South Asia and erstwhile US ambassadors to India to have written Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging him to expeditiously guide the Congressional ratification of the US-India 123 civilian nuclear cooperation agreement saying, "No issue is more vital to the future of the US-India partnership than this legislation."

According to a copy of the letter provided to rediff.com, these experts, scholars and ex-envoys, informed Reid that "India, like us, faces national elections soon -- no later than May 2009," and thus, "Now that the hard work of negotiating has been done, both bilaterally and internationally, it is essential to seize the moment and pass the implementing legislation."

"A failure by Congress to take the final action in implementing the agreement would be a severe setback to strategic gains as both the United States and India hope to gain from their partnership. It would also put US industry at a deep disadvantage, now that other states can freely participate in civil nuclear cooperation with India," it warned.

According to this group, in proposing the agreement, the Bush administration had stressed three factors: the geo-strategic significance of our emerging relationship with India; India's excellent record in safeguarding nuclear technology; and India's massive future energy needs.

"All three arguments are strong as ever," they said, and went into detail to reinforce these arguments focusing on the commonalities between both countries and said these "provide a solid foundation for a long-term partnership based on both democratic values and geo-political interests."

"A strong relationship with India is critical to US security and economic interests in Asia," they declared.

The experts recalled and impressed upon Reid how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] had "bet his government on this agreement, and won a vote of confidence on July 22."

"On India's political spectrum, everyone except the Leftist parties, which represent about 12 per cent of the seats in Parliament, supports a strong relationship with the United States," they said.

"This does not mean that partnership with India will always work seamlessly. Like any two large countries with diverse interests, we have our disagreements, and India has a strong commitment to maintaining independence -- and the appearance of independence -- in its foreign policy," they added.

"India's basic hopes for the future are in line with ours. It is this convergence of interests that will strengthen our future partnership," they said.

The experts urged Reid that now that the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group have acted, he should take the reins and move the ratification process forward and noted that "the negotiations that produced the agreement were long complex, and both sides have accepted provisions they might have preferred to write differently."

"In light of the long and difficult negotiations, we would respectfully ask that no further attempts be made to change the substance of the agreement," they cautioned, and reiterated that "the benefit of forging a real strategic partnership with India is huge, and if we move ahead now, we should be able to strengthen global cooperation against onward proliferation of nuclear weapons."

"This agreement is too importance to be defeated by letting the clock run out," they warned.

Among the signatories to the letter were: Stephen P Cohen, head of the South Asia Program at The Brookings Institution; Karl F Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs and currently director, International Affairs Program at George Washington University; Marshall Bouton, president, Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Walter Andersen, associate director, South Asian Studies, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; Ainslee Embree, professor emeritus of history, Columbia University; Harold Gould, visiting scholar, University of Virginia; Selig Harrison, director, Asia Program, Center for International Policy; Robert M Hathaway, director Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Teresita Schaffer, director, South Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies; Howard Schaffer, deputy director, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University; Ashley Tellis, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Richard Celeste, Thomas Pickering, and Frank Wisner, all former US ambassadors to India.






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