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US Warns Time Running Out for India-US Nuclear Deal


A senior U.S. Congressman visiting India says time is running out for New Delhi to finalize a civilian nuclear deal with the United States. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi that India's Congress Party-led coalition government indicated it will press ahead with the pact, despite strong opposition from its left-wing allies.

After holding talks with senior Indian officials in New Delhi, U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman said there is very little time left for New Delhi to seal a civilian nuclear energy pact with the present administration in the United States.

The civilian nuclear accord signed in 2006 would allow India access to civilian nuclear technology, even though it has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

But India still needs approvals from the International Atomic Energy Agency and a waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group before the pact can go to the U.S. Congress.

Congressman Ackerman, who is chairman of the House of Representatives committee on South and West Asia, says time is getting shorter.

"We will in all likelihood adjourn in September for the rest of the year," he said. "My concern is with the calendar running as quickly as it is, it [nuke deal] now needs a go ahead signal from an international agency, approval by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and we do not know that can we done before September."

In New Delhi, the Congress Party is making frantic efforts to salvage the pact.

The pact has been in virtual limbo due to opposition from the government's communist allies, who say it will compromise India's sovereignty.

But in recent days, Congress Party officials have indicated that New Delhi will go ahead and negotiate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, despite repeated warnings by the communists that such a step will prompt them to withdraw support.

The Congress Party has been in talks with a small party, the Samajwadi Party - and is hoping to gets its support in parliament if left parties walk out of the coalition.

The Samajwadi Party has made no commitments, saying it wants to get expert opinion on the merits of the deal.

The prime minister says the deal is needed to safeguard India's energy security and ensure fuel supplies for its growing economy.

The nuclear pact is seen as a landmark accord, that if finalized, will bring New Delhi closer to Washington and become the centerpiece of a new strategic relationship between the two countries.