Special Correspondent

“Deal must get Congress nod by August”

Congress will break the session in September

Lame duck session of Congress

ruled out

NEW DELHI: Indicating that time was running out, a delegation of U.S. legislators said the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal should be approved by Congress in Washington by August; otherwise it was unlikely to be completed during the tenure of the Bush Administration.

The legislators ruled out a lame duck session of Congress in September to decide on the deal should the safeguards agreement by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) stretch into August.

Speaking to newspersons after meeting the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the Nuclear Deal Shyam Saran and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, delegation leader Gary Ackerman said, “Congress is an ongoing entity. We have a calendar. The calendar is running quickly.”

India is at present barred from global commerce in civilian nuclear technology. It has to go through a three-stage process beginning with the signing of a safeguard agreement with the IAEA, followed by an exemption by the 45-country NSG. The deal will then have to be approved by the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Ackerman explained that Congress would break the session in September and one with a new composition would meet after the Presidential elections next year. He indicated that it was necessary for India to complete the first two stages — IAEA safeguards pact and NSG waiver — by August; otherwise the deal might be reopened by the next administration.

“We had been hopeful that the processes will move quickly ... the processes have moved slower than we had hoped because of obvious reasons,” the chief of the House Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on South Asia said.

Mr. Ackerman vigorously lobbied for the deal but feels that India should align with the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany on isolating Iran.

The U.S. has been making similar observations since February this year about time running out. This was reiterated by its Foreign Office late last month.

After meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February, Senators Joseph Biden, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel urged India to accelerate the process so that the deal was placed before the U.S. Congress, by July-end. The State Department had said each day’s delay would make it more difficult for the deal to be approved.

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