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India to lobby hard with China over N-deal

By Raghavendra in Beijing
July 25, 2008 21:00 IST
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India is expected to lobby hard with a non-committal China next week in its bid to win over the Communist state's backing for the Indo-US nuclear deal ahead of the August 1,  International Atomic Energy Agency meeting to consider New Delhi's case.

The Indian side is in contact with China to firm up a meeting for Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Prithviraj Chavan, for seeking Beijing's support on the deal but no date has yet been fixed.

"We are still in the process of working out," official sources said.

The meeting is likely to be held early next week as the IAEA is to meet on August 1.

Chavan last visited China in October 2007 as part of the delegation of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was on a visit to the Communist nation at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao in his capacity as the ruling Communist Party of China's  general secretary.

China, a member of the IAEA and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, has so far maintained studious ambivalence on its position on support for the deal, to which Pakistan has raised objections on the ground that it would trigger a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

Pakistan, China's "all weather ally", is also pushing for a deal similar to India's with the US while Beijing has already assisted it in building two nuclear reactors.

Beijing says it is studying the India-specific IAEA safeguards agreement. "China is studying the draft safeguards agreement between India and IAEA. The relevant study work is still going on," was all the foreign ministry willing to say on Tuesday to a pointed query on whether it would or would not support the deal.

But, China had earlier hinted it might not be an impediment to the deal, which would have to win the approval of the IAEA and waiver from NSG to pave the way for New Delhi to engage in nuclear commerce with the international community.

After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the G-8 summit early this month, India had expressed confidence there would be "no difficulty" from Beijing when the case goes before the NSG.

Beijing has however softened on its initial position after the deal was signed when the ruling Communist Party of China had in clear cut terms charged that it was of "double standards" and said it was damaging to the "existing non-proliferation system."

India, pursuing the deal with renewed vigour after the United Progressive Alliance government won the confidence vote in Parliament, is sending delegations to some other NSG members also to take them on board over the deal.

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Raghavendra in Beijing
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