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US Pledges to Uphold Its End of India Nuclear Deal


The Bush administration Thursday stressed its determination to fulfill its side of the landmark U.S.-India nuclear agreement after the government of Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh said it is ready to risk a confidence vote to get the deal through parliament in New Delhi. Time may be running out for U.S. Congressional approval this year. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The Bush administration is welcoming the apparent end of the parliamentary impasse in India on the nuclear deal, though it is not predicting outright that U.S. Congressional approval can be obtained before the end of President Bush's term.

Opposition from leftwing factions in the Indian coalition government have stalled parliamentary action on the nuclear package for many months. Prime Minister Singh, after bargaining with minor parties, said Thursday he is ready to push for action despite the risk of losing a confidence vote.

At the same time, the Indian government has submitted a draft nuclear safeguards agreement to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, where approval by the U.N. agency's governing board is needed for the deal to move forward.

The nuclear accord reached by President Bush and Prime Minister Singh in 2005 would give New Delhi access to U.S. nuclear technology, while opening non-military Indian nuclear sites to international inspections.

The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the accord at a meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Japan.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack welcomed the new developments as a significant step forward for the U.S.-Indian relationship, the Indian nuclear program, and the international non-proliferation regime.

Though acknowledging that time is short for getting final approval in the U.S. Congress, McCormack said the administration is prepared to do all it can to achieve that:

"Of course we're interested in seeing this agreement move forward, but we also made clear that there were certain decisions that the Indian government needed to make. They have apparently made those decisions and we as a result are fully committed to doing everything that we can to fulfill our end of this agreement," he said.

Before the U.S. Congress can act, the agreement must be cleared by both the IAEA and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which governs trade in reactors and nuclear fuel.

Speedy action by the IAEA is considered likely but the matter may face some obstacles in the Suppliers Group.

Enabling action in the U.S. Congress, meanwhile is threatened both by resistance from some Democrats, who accuse the Bush the administration of diluting U.S. non-proliferation policy, and the political timetable.

Legislative rules require that Congress be in session for 30 work days to consider the package and there are less than 40 work days available before the planned September 26th adjournment.

Democratic leaders have said they oppose re-convening Congress for a so-called "lame duck" session after the November election, partly because Democrats anticipate election gains and do not want the current Congress to be extended.

U.S. proponents of the deal warn that if Congress fails to act this year, India can turn to other suppliers and the U.S. nuclear industry could potentially lose billions of dollars in business.


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