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Indo-US Nuclear Deal almost dead. PM, though, is hopeful

Refusing to concede defeat yet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday persisted with hopes of progress on the Indo-US nuclear agreement even as a senior Bush administration official earlier involved in the negotiations asserted that the deal now is almost dead.

The PM’s strong pitch for the deal comes ahead of his scheduled meeting with US president George Bush next month on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Japan where the two leaders are likely to do the summing up on the deal.

Contending that the pact was important to end India’s nuclear apartheid, Singh told foreign service probationers at a meeting here: ‘‘I will still continue to hope that we will make progress in the months that lie ahead. This agreement, if it materializes, if it sees light of the day, will open new possibilities of co-operation not only with the US but also with other nuclear powers like Russia and France.’’

The PM’s views, however, came even as Ashley Tellis, one of the original architects of the deal and presently an advisor to Republican candidate John McCain’s presidential campaign announced the dead end of the deal being passed by the Bush administration. ‘‘Even if the Indian Government were suddenly to turn around and get the IAEA stage completed, there would be no time for the remaining two stages,’’ Tellis was quoted as having said in an interview to The Financial Times.

Tellis was also of the view that the collapse of the deal would jeopardize India’s access to sensitive US technology, which could have an impact on defense sales and civil nuclear development. ‘‘If you look at the regime between 1974 (when India conducted its first nuclear test) and 1998 (its second) that would give you some idea of what India would be heading back towards. This would be a historic blunder,’’ he added.

In his interaction with the IFS probationers, the Prime Minister, however, sought to blame on the BJP and the Left for posing hurdles before the deal. ‘‘Our domestic Politics has prevented us from going ahead,’’ he said.

Left parties, which extend crucial outside support to the government, have been strongly opposing implementation of the deal with the US, arguing that it would compromise the country's security interest and independent foreign policy. They have warned the government of serious consequences if it implemented the deal. The two sides are currently engaged in talks to try and end the deadlock, with the next meeting of the UPA-Left panel scheduled for June 18.
Do we really have some hope left now? I have been a strong supporter of the deal and it is really heart-breaking to see a golden opportunity wasted in such a way.


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