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India confident of N-deal passage: Menon

Dharam Shourie in New York | September 26, 2008 12:33 IST
Last Updated: September 26, 2008 13:09 IST

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Indo-US Nuclear Tango

India on Friday said it was confident of the passage of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as it enjoyed bipartisan support among lawmakers, assuring that American firms would not be put at a disadvantage even if there is delay in getting a Congressional nod for the accord.

Both presidential candidates Barack Obama [Images] and John McCain [Images], have also spoken for the deal. The delay is only as lawmakers are preoccupied with pressing economic legislation, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told newsmen while briefing about the prime minister's meeting with President George Bush [Images].

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and President Bush have expressed satisfaction at having brought the civilian nuclear deal to the point where it is about to be adopted by the US Congress, Menon said.

Dr Singh expressed gratitude to Bush for having decisively intervened at various crucial levels to move the deal forward.

The discussions between the two leaders, which covered the whole gamut of international and regional issues as also the current financial crisis, lasted about two and half hours; first in the Oval office and later over dinner, he added.

Rejecting suggestions that American suppliers of nuclear equipment would be placed at disadvantage if the adoption of deal by the Congress was delayed, Menon said the sheer number of reactors India needs would not allow that.

"The issue will be of economic competitiveness of the companies," he told reporters.

However, he declined to set any time-frame for the deal to go through the Congress or comment on the ongoing political process, saying it is America's internal matter.

Asked whether India would be able to start buying equipment from other member countries of the NSG, including France [Images] and Russia [Images], even if the deal is held up in the Congress, he said the NSG waiver provides that its members can cooperate with India and it is for the group's members to do so.

Speaking about the Dr Singh-Bush meeting, Menon said the two leaders also touched issues of regional importance, including the need to continue support to Afghanistan's transformation into a peaceful society and to free the region from terrorism.

Menon replied in the affirmative when asked if Pakistan came up during the discussion, but said it was not a large part of the parleys.

Replying to a question, Menon said that India, which is not involved militarily in Afghanistan, does not intend to change that. But it is involved in a big way in reconstruction, having committed an assistance of $1.2 billion and some 4,000 Indians are working on various projects.

This, he said, is a sizable number. During the initial meeting, which was attended by the United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab, the issue of Doha trade talks came up.

Dr Singh emphasised that the developing countries have interest in a rule-based international trading system. But emerging economies also face the issue of subsistence farmers, which is most important to them, he told Bush.

President Bush expressed understanding of the situation and opined that these aspects need to be accommodated, Menon said.

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