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US vows to fulfill its side of N-deal

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | July 11, 2008 12:37 IST
Last Updated: July 11, 2008 12:38 IST

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Indo-US Nuclear Tango

As the the United Progressive Alliance government prepares to face a trust vote in Parliament, the US has appreciated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [Images] "commitment" to the Indo-US nuclear deal and said New Delhi has taken a "significant step forward" by submitting the draft text of the safeguards agreement to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We... are fully committed to doing everything that we can to fulfil our end of this agreement," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

The India-specific safeguards pact, which is the next step in the operationalisation of the deal, was sent to the 35-nation IAEA board on Wednesday when the Left parties withdrew support from Dr Singh's government following a bitter feud over the issue, forcing it to seek a confidence vote in Parliament.

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

White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said, "We do appreciate Prime Minister Singh's willingness to move forward with this deal. It's a historic agreement, this strategic partnership."

"We think the initiative will help strengthen global non-proliferation efforts.... we appreciate the commitment by the prime minister," Fratto said.

The US, McCormack said, was looking forward to take up the issues related to the nuclear deal with the UN atomic watchdog and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

"We also made clear that there were certain decisions that the Indian government needed to make. They have apparently made those decisions," he said. 

"And we, as a result, are fully committed to doing everything that we can to fulfil our end of this agreement," McCormack said.

"So we very much welcome India's step and look forward to talking about the issues not directly under our control -- ie, what we're going to do with the Congress -- but in the NSG as well as the IAEA," he added.

McCormack said the United States "is fully committed to doing everything it can to move this agreement forward to its conclusion."

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," he said.

"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," the spokesman said replying to a question.

McCormack was also 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 an 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 Singh arrived were fully, solely the decisions of the Indian government," McCormack replied.

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

"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 (Capitol 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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