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Obama reluctant to seek changes in nuclear deal

Barack Obama

Barack Obama  

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Democratic Party candidate for the United States Presidential election Barack Obama has said he was reluctant to seek changes in the civilian nuclear deal with India, and hoped to see the process concluded before the year-end.

The existing nuclear agreement balanced both issues – America’s strategic relationship with India and its non-proliferation concerns. “I am therefore reluctant to seek changes,” he told Outlook magazine in an interview.

He admitted to some reservations over the “original agreement” but subsequently concluded that it would “enhance our [Indo-U.S.] partnership and deepen our cooperation” to combat global warning.

Asked whether an Obama administration in 2009 would reopen or scrap the deal if it was not concluded this year, he said, “A final judgement on the deal…must await the IAEA’s approval of a safeguards agreement and changes to be agreed [upon] by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. At that point the U.S. Congress will decide whether to approve the agreement. I continue to hope this process can be concluded before the end of the year.”

Indian connections

Disclosing several Indian connections, Mr. Obama said he would continue with the tradition established by George W Bush and Bill Clinton of visiting India during their tenure as Presidents. He was fortunate to have close Indian-American friends. He pointed out that his mother did rural development work in India.

“Throughout my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office: to remind me that real results will come not just from Washington – they will come from the people.”

Asked in what areas he would like to see U.S.-India relations grow, his reply was, “across the board would the short answer.” Specifically, he would like to focus on counter-terrorism, greater military ties, promotion of democracy in the region and beyond and combating climate change and global poverty. “I would also like to see agriculture given a higher priority in our relations, as India pursues its goal of a second green revolution.”

Mr. Obama spoke against the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy of “putting all our eggs in the Musharraf basket” and wanted the U.S. to align with “Pakistan and its people and not just one individual.”

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