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'N-deal shouldn't be litmus test for Indo-US ties'
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | September 15, 2007 10:23 IST
Don't make the civilian nuclear deal the be-all and the end-all of the Indo-US relationship, former Indian Ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra advised members of the US-India Business Council, for whom the consummation of this agreement was evidently uppermost on their agenda.
Speaking at a luncheon discussion of the US-India Strategic Dialogue, Chandra, who acknowledged that the outcome of the nuclear deal seemingly was 'the mother of all questions,' asserted: "While the civilian nuclear deal between India and the United States was important, it might be better not to make it a total litmus test of our relationship.'
While agreeing that working on the agreement and 'an end treaty is important,' the ex-envoy -- who served in Washington during India's May 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests and distinguished himself with his non-apologetic defense of the tests even as the Administration and US Congress were going ballistic and condemning India -- said, "But it is not that we did not have any cooperation in this area before."
"It also does not mean that if this agreement for some reason is not concluded satisfactorily soon that everything else will fall by the wayside," he added, arguing that "still progress can be made outside the treaty."
Chandra, who is leading the Indian delegation for the 10th annual US-India Strategic Dialogue co-sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Aspen Strategy Group over the next three days, explained, "Unfortunately, what has happened is that it is (the deal) not only the highest visible symbol of cooperation between India and the United States, it represents a new turn -- it's a very special cooperation."
Consequently, he said, "By that very fact, it will act as a kind of magnet to attract every possible issue, which is hovering nearby into a discussion, with every nuance of the agreement being gone over with a fine tooth comb."
"You must have noticed various articles and people having all kinds of opinions� the discussions attract not only different perceptions and points of view, but also prejudices, biases, and special considerations."
Chandra declared, "So, we are passing through a very difficult phase of democratic politics. In India, it is not just the opinion that is divided, between the nay-sayers and the ayes, but it is a whole spectrum of opinion."
"There is apprehension in the minds of many that the provisions of the Hyde Act, even though they are truly applicable more to the United States and the entirety of the US administration, it has been translated as binding or compelling in nature on India," he said, adding, "As a result, all kinds of issues were being raised� of autonomy of the country, that foreign policies are being diluted, and so on being played out in a public debate."
Chandra said, "That is why an effort is being made to persuade political parties through consultations and discussion to see that what (the government) is doing is in the national interest, and not so much in the interest of one party or another."
"There is a whole lot of a mix here," he said, adding that 'it is very difficult to be predictive of political events of the future.'
But, Chandra said, "the conventional wisdom dictates that the government of India is resolute," and committed to "the implementation of the 123 agreement."