Bush team hopes new president will back n-deal

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : With last-ditch efforts in New Delhi to save the India-US civil nuclear deal not making much headway, the US administration seems reconciled to the agreement not getting through during President George Bush’s tenure and hopes the next administration will back the deal.

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“It certainly gets harder every day that this is delayed,” State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Monday when asked if there was still enough time to get the deal done before Bush leaves office and whether it could be carried over to the next administration.

“We’d like to believe that this deal and this agreement is one that can and should be supported by whoever comes into office in January 2009, but obviously, the next government will have to look at this and make their own decisions on it,” he said.

“We believe and we continue to believe that this arrangement is in the best interests of India, the US and the broader international community because it will strengthen non-proliferation regimes out there,” Casey said.

“The reality, of course, is that every day that goes by is one less day on the legislative calendar for us to be able to have congressional action take place,” he said. “So it certainly gets harder every day that this is delayed.

“That said, you know, the Indian government has internal political issues that it needs to work through,” Casey said, referring to the threat by the Left allies to pull the plug on the Manmohan Singh government should it go ahead with the deal.

“And certainly we continue to support this and we believe it’s in our interest, but it certainly becomes harder to do so as the realities of the legislative calendar move forward,” he said.

India and US finalised the implementing 123 agreement in July 2007. But it cannot be operationalised until the US Congress gives it its final approval in an up or down vote.

Before that New Delhi needs to sign a safeguards agreement for its civilian reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and get the approval of 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

India has already finalised the agreement with the IAEA, but it has not signed it yet due to persistent opposition by the government’s leftist supporters.

Several US officials as also key lawmakers, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joseph Biden, who is expected to play a key role in pushing the deal through Congress, have warned that it would be difficult to get the process completed in an election year unless the 123 agreement reaches it before end-June.