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US on N-deal: 'This opportunity doesn't come often'
October 26, 2007 13:39 IST
Amid stiff opposition from the Left Front to the India-United States nuclear agreement, the US has expressed hope that India was not close to rejecting the pact. Senior US officials also said that it would be a 'smart' move to get the deal back to the Congress for final voting in January before the presidential elections.
"One message that the US is articulating very clearly to India is that this is an opportunity that doesn't come around often. They ought to take this opportunity," US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said.
"We don't have forever. The reality of our politics is that the Congress made a huge effort to pass the necessary law in the United States. The Congress has to have one more vote that has to be taken. We certainly don't want to go too deep in 2008," he told the National Public Radio.
When asked if January is important because otherwise in an election year not much would get done, Burns said it would be a smart move to get the deal back to the Congress when they have time to look at it.
"I think the reality is that an agreement like this, which has been controversial in our country but which has current Congressional support, it is smart to get it back to the Congress in a time when they will have the time to look at it and not to get it too deep into our election year," he said.
Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in the US in November next year.
Asked whether it was frustrating as India seems close to rejecting the deal, Burns said, "we hope they are not close to rejecting it."
"We don't think the deal is dead, but the deal has been postponed," he said.
In Washington, US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed speculation that the deal was dead and said the Bush administration would work towards making the landmark deal a reality.
Earlier, Burns described the nuclear agreement as the symbolic centerpiece of partnership between the two countries and added that "we are establishing a strategic global partnership with India."
"India and the United States are the world's two greatest democracies. India, the largest, and we, the oldest are trying to maintain peace and stability in South Asia, which is of course is a critical area for the United States," he said.
Burns said India was famously non-aligned from its beginning in 1947 as an independent country until very recently.
"Now India is seeking a global leadership role so it has to make a choice. We and many other governments believe that India should grab this opportunity and enter a new era of relations with the United States," he said.
Burns pointed out that India was short on power and needed more for electricity production. However, for the past 35 years, nuclear fuel had not been sold to India because it became a nuclear weapon power outside the non-proliferation regime.
"We are now advocating that there be a change in the US law to let India have access to that civil nuclear power," said Burns.
Burns said the deal addressed the concerns of skeptics in the US Congress who want the agreement to state that the civilian nuclear cooperation will end if India ever conducts a nuclear test.
"We have a clear obligation under the Atomic Energy Act to react if a country like India conducts a nuclear test. This president and any future president will always have that right under our law," he said.
"It would be up to the American president at the time, but we have been very clear with the Indians that we do not want them to conduct another nuclear test and there is no indication that they have plans to do that any time soon," he said.
Asked if the Left Front in India is opposing the deal to prevent possible alienation from Communist China, Burns said the US would give India some more time to work out these problems.
"It is true that these particular parties have had a close relationship with the Chinese government for many decades. But India is a great democracy so we have got to give Indians some more time to work out these problems," he said.