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India should not miss the N-deal bus: US
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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February 26, 2008 10:00 IST

The Bush Administration is highly appreciative that senior US lawmakers during their recent visit to New Delhi had reinforced the contention at the highest levels that time is running out for the completion of the US-India civilian nuclear deal and called on India to get its act together and issued a time-line.


US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns--the chief US interlocutor of the accord--during an interaction that following remarks on Global Challenges and Opportunities in US Foreign Policy, said the administration was "very pleased that Senator Joe Biden (chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee), Senator John F Kerry and Senator Chuck Hagel (also members of the panel) spoke, and what I heard Senator Biden say is pretty much the views of our administration--this is a very substantial deal."


"It's going to be good for India as for the United States, (and) we want to see it go forward," Burns said, "but as Senator Biden said, the reality is, that we have a calendar this year--we are in an election--and Senator Biden said that agreement needs to come back to Congress by May/June of this year so that it could be passed in the Congress before the summer recess."


He said, "That's Senator Biden's quote and I thought that was the right thing to say because that's our appreciation of the time-line as well."


Burns argued, "So, at some point India will need to decide to go forward and we hope the decision will be, yes, because this will be the symbolic centerpiece of our new relationship with India."


"It's also India's way to emerge from this 35 years of isolation in the civil nuclear field and to be treated fairly and equitably by the international community," he added.


Burns in making the case that time is of the essence, said two things still favored the consummation of the deal if India could move forward expeditiously, even though New Delhi has to first hammer out a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and then a consensus has to be achieved in the Nuclear Suppliers Group endorsing the accord, before the final vote in Congress.


"We still have a bipartisan majority in Congress in favour," of the agreement, he said, and added, "We also have a very strong majority of countries that favour it internationally--Russia, Britain, France [Images] and Germany [Images] and the United States -- are all strong supporters of the Nuclear Suppliers Group making an exception for India, so that we can all sell nuclear fuel and help India build nuclear power plants so that India can develop (its nuclear energy capacity) from three percent to past 25-30 percent and thereby to deal with the problem of global climate change and carbon emissions by India and having a very clean source of energy to the Indian people." 


"As far as the United States is concerned  we know what we think --we think it's a good deal and now it's up to India and we trust the Indian government will make the best decision for India," Burns said.


Later in a brief interaction with reporters, when informed of the opposition to the deal in India by some of the ruling coalition Left partners and the opposition BJP, Burns said, "It's a fair agreement for India, and the only way India can emerge from this nuclear isolation is to have this agreement go forward."


He warned, "If this fails, it will be several years --many, many years--before another attempt is made and it's very important that India have the opportunity to derive the benefits of nuclear energy and to be treated fairly by the rest of the world and that's what we've been arguing for." 


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