Harish Khare

We’re working hard to get nuclear deal passed as quickly as possible: Bush

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush gave one last personal touch to the new “strategic partnership” between India and the United States, even as the two leaders were aware that the civilian nuclear agreement itself remained far from being consummated because of the American legislators’ doubts and diversions.

The Prime Minister and his entourage travelled to Washington DC on Thursday afternoon for a three-hour interaction, including a working dinner, with Mr. Bush at the White House.

In their brief statements, made before the media at the Oval Office, the two leaders referred to the trouble the India-U.S. civilian agreement had run into in the U.S. Congress. “It has taken a lot of work on both our parts, a lot of courage on your part, and of course we want the agreement to satisfy you and get it out of our Congress. And so we’re working hard to get it passed as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Bush.

Dr. Singh, on his part, hoped that the agreement would be approved “in a manner which will be satisfactory from the point of view of both of our countries.” But the Prime Minister wanted to put on record his appreciation of Mr. Bush’s personal role in the “massive transformation” of the India-U.S. ties, centred on the nuclear agreement.

“ ..with regard to civil nuclear energy, I know these are difficult issues, and at each stage it was your leadership, your personal intervention, which resolved all the difficulties that were affecting the progress of these negotiations,” acknowledged Dr. Singh.

Later, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon alluded to the difficulties the India-U.S. nuclear deal had run into in the U.S. Congress, both on account of the American pre-occupation with the massive financial crisis and opposition to the deal per se.

Mr. Menon said, “we have to learn as we go along” and that he was not an “astrologer” to predict how the Congressional approval process would work itself out. He, however, did suggest that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could visit India soon, possibly in the first week of October, by which time the American Congress would have finished its part.

However, Mr. Menon made it clear now that the NSG waiver was in place; New Delhi was ready to do nuclear business with France and Russia though it would not necessarily mean a disadvantage for the American companies.

“The 123 is an enabling agreement and once it is done, it would allow firms and companies to sit and do the detailed contracts for the supply of the equipment, etc. That work is going to take a little time. It is not that once 123 is done, contracts would be signed overnight with anybody,” Mr. Menon said.

He clarified the commitment made to place orders for 10, 000 MW from American firms: “The commitment to the U.S. is that we will place orders if they are commercially competitive which is the same as our commitment for anyone else.”

Related links:

  • US House of Representatives Bill on N-deal
  • Working hard to get deal approved as quickly as possible: Bush
  • Manmohan seeks satisfactory approval for deal
  • Foreign Affairs panel chief Berman backs deal
  • More In: Today's Paper