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N-deal: US welcomes India's step forward

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | July 11, 2008 03:27 IST

The United States on Thursday welcomed India's decision to get the safeguards agreement circulated among the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors as a 'significant step' and said Washington was 'fully committed' to do everything it can to move the pact forward to its conclusion.

Coverage: Indo-US Nuclear Deal

"This is a very significant step forward for India in terms of its development of civilian nuclear power but also it is a very important step for the international non proliferation regime," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

McCormack said the US was looking forward to take up the issues related to the nuclear deal with the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Special: The Indo-US nuclear deal explained

"So we very much welcome India's step and look forward to talking about the issues not directly under our control; i.e., what we are going to do with the Congress -- but in the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as the IAEA," he added.

"As a member of the Board of Governors, we are going to have an opportunity to talk about these issues. But the United States is fully committed to doing everything it can to move this agreement forward to its conclusion," McCormack said.

After securing IAEA approval, India must also get the clearance of the NSG, a group of 45 states that export nuclear fuel and technology and from the US Congress.

Asked about whether the United States was privy to the draft text before it was presented to the IAEA McCormack pleaded ignorance.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know. We look forward to discussing the issue at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting," he said.

McCormack said India's decision to seek the nuclear watchdog's approval of its draft safeguards pact signals that India intends to move forward with this significant strategic step.

"This is really a signal that India intends to move forward with this significant strategic step in terms of not only a different kind of relationship, but a different kind of relationship with some of these international organisations that are involved in civilian nuclear power," McCormack said.

"Certainly, you should know and the Indian people should know that our commitment to moving forward with the agreement is a sign of the fact that this agreement is in our national interest. It also demonstrates the great respect that we have for India, the Indian people, and the kind of relationship that we want to have with India in the future," he said, replying to a question.

McCormack was asked if Washington has seen anything that might be objectionable as far as the text of the draft is concerned.

"To tell you the truth, I don't -- I'm not briefed up on the details. I can't tell you the extent to which we as the US government are briefed up on the details. I know that this was an effort that the Indian government was working with the IAEA directly," he responded.

Asked whether the Bush administration could give assurance that the deal would be passed in this Congress to the Indian government which will face a trust vote in the Parliament, McCormack evaded a direct reply

"We certainly -- via our ambassador and our embassy in Delhi -- have been following the issue quite closely, but the deliberations that were taking place were entirely within the Indian political system. And the decisions which the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] arrived were fully, solely the decisions of the Indian government," McCormack replied.

"Of course we are interested in seeing this agreement move forward, but we also made clear that there were certain decisions that the Indian government needed to make. They have apparently made those decisions. And we, as a result, are fully committed to doing everything that we can to fulfil our end of this agreement," he said.

McCormack said the administration was in constant touch with the Congress on the issue.

"I don't have a particular timeline for you. A lot of that is under the control of the Congress, the House and the Senate. But I know we have been in contact, really regular contact over the past several months with the Congress on the issue.

"And I know that we have also more recently been in contact with the Hill regarding moving this process forward so that we can fully implement the agreement," McCormack said in response to a question.

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