‘US very committed to N-deal with India’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US says it is “very committed” to the India-US civil nuclear deal and is “still working on it” even as it has been stalled due to opposition from the Indian government’s Leftist supporters.

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“We’re still working on it and are very committed to it,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said Wednesday when asked about the status of the agreement that President George W. Bush considers a major foreign policy achievement of his administration.

The White House comments came a day after a senior official of the Congress Party leading India’s ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) told his interlocutors in Washington that New Delhi had not given up on the agreement that would resume nuclear commerce between India and the US after 30 years.

“We want the deal but the ruling coalition was also conscious that there can’t be a deal without a government,” Congress party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said in a talk on “Perspectives on the US-India Civil Nuclear Deal” at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

Singhvi, who is here to tell the American government and the foreign policy establishment why the deal has been put on the backburner, said: “It’s important to carry all constituents along.”

But “We haven’t given up. Nor do we accept it as end of the road,” he said, noting that the Indian government still had 10 to 12 months to complete it though it would like to finish it with an administration that started it.

“We are fully conscious of time lines from both US and Indian sides,” Singhvi said. It was only to save time that New Delhi had negotiated an India specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency without a formal go ahead from the deal’s left opponents.

Singhvi also reiterated that India was bound by only the bilateral 123 agreement and not the prescriptive provisions of the US enabling Hyde Act. The US president too had made an explicit declaration that provisions relating to a congruent foreign policy, dealing with Iran, sending troops to Iraq or non-proliferation were non-binding.

India and US agree on what binds India, and fears about the Hyde act in India and some interpretations of it in the US should not be a cause of worry, he said asking the critics “not to let the perfect to be the enemy of the good” by judging it with non-existent ideal standards.

Singhvi, who arrived in Washington Sunday, has met with officials at the Pentagon and participated in a closed-door briefing with members of Congress and their senior staff. He also spoke on the issue at the World Affairs Council, another US think tank.