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India won't renegotiate 123 Agreement

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Last updated on: September 22, 2008 23:00 IST

India on Monday was guarded on whether the nuclear deal with the US will get the approval of the Congress during the current session and was not getting unduly anxious for the pact to get through during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington on September 25.

New Delhi, however, hopes that the integrity of the 123 agreement to operationalise the landmark accord would not be compromised in any manner, official sources said.

The Congress session is due to end on September 26 but may be extended by one week to consider a financial package for the US in the wake of the meltdown in the American economy.

Amid mounting speculation whether the deal will cross the final Congressional hurdle to coincide with Dr Singh's working visit to Washington for talks with President George W

Bush, sources in the prime minister's delegation travelling to the US said mixed signals were emanating from the US in this regard.

They, however, made it clear that India is not going to renegotiate the 123 agreement that will operationalise the nuclear deal.

The prime minister arrived in Frankfurt on Monday night en route to New York where he will address the UN General Assembly on September 26 besides having bilateral meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

Sources say over three years have elapsed since Bush and Singh signed the historic civil nuclear agreement and there was nothing wrong if the agreement goes through the motions in the US Congress.

They, however, hoped the deal will be ratified by the Congress as quickly as possible.

Sources indicated that nothing can be said as of today on the fate of the agreement in the US Congress. The Indian government will have to wait to see what shape the 123 agreement takes once it is approved, the sources said.

The Indian government is not seeing the visit with the possibility of signing the agreement in mind, they said.

"It is not necessary for the agreement to be signed by the prime minister and this could be done by any functionary in the government," the sources said.

They said the view of the Indian legal experts was that fuel supply assurances in the 123 agreement were legally binding contrary to the view held by the Bush Administration that Washington had only given political commitments in this regard.

The sources said that one signal from the US was that the financial package relating to the collapse of some of the leading investment banks was engaging the attention of the Congress and therefore it may not have the time to consider the deal in the current session.

The sources said irrespective of the outcome of the 123 agreement, the unconditional waiver secured by India earlier this month was a singular achievement to end India's 34-year-old nuclear isolation and to expand the atomic power programme by leaps and bounds.

Sources said India was looking at Dr Singh's visit to Washington also from the point of view of strengthening strategic cooperation in defence, science and space fields.

Dr Singh may have a telephonic conversation with Democrat Presidential nominee Barak Obama during his stay in New York. He is likely to have a meeting with Republican candidate Senator John McCain.

The sources said there was a likelihood of India and France signing a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement on the lines of the Indo-US nuclear deal during PM's visit to Paris for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on September 30.