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Rediff.com  » News » No more negotiations, says US

No more negotiations, says US

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August 28, 2007 12:50 IST
Senior Bush administration officials have avoided public comment on the furore in Parliament over the India-US civilian nuclear agreement, but privately rule out re-negotiations.

One senior US official told Rediff India Abroad, "You can be assured that the last thing we want to do is insert ourselves into the debate of a sovereign nation, but you bet the ball is now once again in India's court to move the deal forward. And yes, time is indeed of the essence."

The official, and others in Washington involved in the negotiation of the agreement, also privately asserted, "One thing that is absolutely clear is that there will be no re-negotiation of either the Hyde Act or the 123 Agreement. That is an absolute."

Publicly, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos, said on August 23, that the furore in the Indian Parliament 'is a situation where the Indians -- the Indian government -- are working within their system.'

'We are in discussions with Congress and will continue those,' he said, 'Both parties -- both the Indian government and our government -- are very committed to seeing this through.'

Gallegos said while he could not comment on internal Indian matters, the discussion in the Indian Parliament suggests the Indian government 'is serious about holding and continuing working towards the fruition of this agreement. And we share the same commitment with them.'Asked if there were any plans for any further talks with US diplomats off the New Delhi to meet with their India counterparts or the latter planning to come to Washington, the spokesman said he had no information on the meetings ahead.

Officials privately expressed concern over the opposition to the deal in the Indian Parliament that had effectively stalled the talks between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency to negotiate a safeguards agreement, which is the first step to operationalising the deal.

"They haven't still got to first base," one official lamented, noting that "only after this agreement is completed, can we go to bat for India at the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group), and our hopes to have it all wrapped up by the end of fall, now seem so far away."

Earlier, Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state and the main American negotiator for the treaty, had said that "our hope would be that the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the Nuclear Suppliers Group action could be accomplished this autumn. That would allow our administration to deliver the agreement to the Congress by say November or December and ask for action in this calendar year."

"Obviously, this is not a sure path because it depends on the speed by which the Indian government can move with the IAEA and the NSG," he said. "But the US intends to be very supportive of India at the NSG meeting. In effect, we will help to explain what the agreement is all about and to convince the other countries that it's really in the best international interest that international action be taken on India commensurate to what the United States will have done bilaterally."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

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