US supports N-deal, but won’t get into debate

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : The United States says it’s “still very supportive” of its civilian nuclear deal with India, stalled by opposition from the Indian coalition government’s leftist supporters, but would not jump into the debate over it.

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“We continue to support the agreement and would like to move forward with it,” State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters Thursday when asked if the deal was dead with the problems it faced in New Delhi.

“I’m not going to make any predictions. We continue to support it, though,” he said in response to another question if he was hopeful that it might go through by early next year as suggested by another US official.

Noting that there were “a lot of intensive domestic political discussions in India”, McCormack said: “The Indian government and the Indian political system will play out those discussions. It’s not something that we’re going to directly participate in.

“We are still very supportive of the deal. We still would like to see it move forward, but the Indian government and the political system is engaged in a debate and we’ll see what the outcome of that debate is.”

Another US official said that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would stress the importance of the nuclear deal during his India visit next week.

Though Paulson’s trip was not designed for any discussions on the nuclear deal, he would, as a senior US government official, certainly stress its enormous importance and the benefits it would bring to the two countries, Under Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs David McCormick said.

Hoping that India would not move forward with the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, he suggested that India’s quest for energy security would be better achieved by proceeding with the nuclear deal.

Paulson himself Wednesday described the historic agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation as “an important part of the US-India relationship” and said the US “remains committed to this agreement”.

“It is beneficial to both countries. India is one of the world’s largest and most peaceful states with advanced nuclear technologies, and has been isolated from the rest of the world on nuclear issues.

“This agreement will bring India into the nuclear non-proliferation mainstream, providing access to the technology which can help it reach its economic and environmental objectives.”

Moving forward with the civilian nuclear agreement is one part of the solution to bringing about economic growth with environmental responsibility, he told the Council on Foreign Relations here.