Says time is running out for the Congress though it’s possible to move forward on it

Washington: Indicating that the nuclear deal may spill over to the next administration if India fails to resolve internal issues, the U.S. has said “time is running out” for the Congress though it is “still possible” to move forward on it.

“We certainly would like to see this deal concluded as soon as possible. And we, of course, have our own calendar in terms of elections and a legislative timetable. So certainly, I think time is running out to be able to give this current Congress the opportunity to consider this arrangement,” State Department spokesperson Tom Casey told reporters here.

Washington wants India to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and secure the nod of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group before placing the deal for Congressional approval.

With opposition from the Left , the government has found the going slow in completing the processes needed for operationalisation of the deal.

Mr. Casey said: “There would be opportunities in future Congresses and with the future administration to move forward on this, but certainly, we can only talk for ourselves and for this administration in terms of this arrangement. The U.S. lawmakers have been pressing for a July timeline on the deal because the Congress will leave for a break in August.

Terming the deal as “symbolic” of the “tremendous positive change” in overall India-U.S. relations, Mr. Casey said regardless of when the deal was passed, the strengthening of the relationship that has begun under Bush administration will not change and “we certainly hope it will continue into the future.”

But the Bush administration did not wish to be seen as giving up on the deal. “We certainly believe it is still possible for this deal to move forward and for our Congress to have an opportunity to consider it.... it ain’t over till it’s over.”

During a visit here last month, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had refused to give any timeframe saying the government was trying to build consensus on the deal.

Mr. Casey said the U.S. understands that the Indian government has “some decisions” to make and has some “internal issues that it needs to resolve before it can move forward.”

“We would certainly hope to have an opportunity to present the Congress with this agreement and give them a chance to vote on it,” Mr. Casey added.

“We continue to believe that the civil nuclear deal is good, not only for India and for the U.S., but also good in terms of strengthening the non-proliferation regimes that are out there,” the spokesperson said.

He also appreciated the efforts of the former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns; U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford and other officials to move the deal forward.

Bush administration’s chief interlocutor on the nuclear deal, Mr. Burns, had quit as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in February. — PTI

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