Setback in n-deal, but we will build consensus: Manmohan

By Manish Chand, IANS

On Board Air India One : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday admitted there is a “setback” to the India-US civil nuclear deal due to the Left opposition, but added that his government is hopeful of building a “national consensus” and will find a way out of the present political impasse.

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Manmohan Singh admitted that India’s safeguards negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have been put on hold and his government will move on with the next steps, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) rule change, after political problems blocking the nuclear deal are resolved.

“We are in a coalition, we have to find a way out and I have not given up hope,” Manmohan Singh told reporters in a mid-air press conference on his way back home from Johannesburg.

“I have mentioned that there are some difficulties. I think we will make every effort. We are trying to evolve national consensus,” he replied when asked whether his government was hopeful of completing the nuclear deal before end-2008.

“I hope that the process which emerges as a result of wide-ranging discussions with our coalition partners will enable us to move forward. I think we have to resolve our problems as home and that process is on,” Manmohan Singh said.

“Our discussions with the members of the NSG will come only after we have an India-specific safeguards agreement with IAEA,” he said when asked if Brazil and South Africa offered their support to India in the NSG when he met Presidents Lula da Silva of Brazil and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa during the IBSA summit in Pretoria Wednesday.

“Only after that, the NSG members will consider cooperation with us. The problems that have arisen – you all know about it,” he said.

The prime minister also sought to dispel the impression that there were differences among United Progressive Alliance (UPA) partners over the nuclear deal.

“This agreement was approved by the cabinet. So I don’t know what you say about UPA going back on it. They were part and parcel of the cabinet process,” he said in a comment on the reported remarks by some of the Congress’ allies.

“We have done many things and there are a lot of things to be done. So, I think there’s a setback in one direction, but I would not say that it is the end of life,” Manmohan Singh replied when asked whether the failure to arrive at a consensus at home has affected India’s image in the international community.

“When something does not work out the way you plan it, it does have an effect. But as I said last week in India at the Hindustan Times summit, we are not a one-issue government. We have lots of other things on our agenda,” he said.