Manmohan hopeful of wrapping up nuclear deal in US

By Manish Chand, IANS,

On board Air India One : Amid last minute suspense about the fate of the India-US nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said he was hopeful that the pact will be wrapped up during his US trip that ends Saturday – also the last day of the current session of the American Congress.

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“We are hopeful that the deal will be finalised,” Manmohan Singh told reporters on his way to New York, when asked whether he was confident of concluding the deal during the trip.

In the same breath, Manmohan Singh, however, struck a note of caution, saying the conclusion of the deal will depend on the US Congress. “I am hopeful it will happen. Much will depend on the US Congress,” he added.

“Let’s see. It is not clear yet. They (US) are preoccupied with global financial situation,” the prime minister told reporters, while alluding to the worst financial meltdown in the US since sthe 1930s.

The financial crunch has elbowed aside everything else in the US, including the presidential elections – and may stall the passage of the deal in the US Congress.

Opinion is however divided on how the financial crisis will impact upon the process of Congressional approval of the 123 India-US civil nuclear pact.

There are some who feel the meltdown may compel Congressmen to take a more positive view of the deal, which is expected to generate billions of dollars in business for US nuclear companies and thousands of jobs for Americans.

“In life, one has to learn to live with disappointments but I don’t believe we have reached that point,” Manmohan replied when asked whether he would be disappointed if the deal was not approved by the US Congress in the next few days.

“I am not an astrologer. Let’s get there first. Let’s see what happens,” a beaming Manmohan Singh, clad in a bandgala-collar white shirt and grey trousers, replied when IANS asked him how he felt about being so close to clinching the nuclear deal in which he had invested so much political capital to bring it to fruition.

Manmohan Singh is on a 10-day foreign trip that will also take him to Washington, Marseilles and Paris.