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Don’t revise N-deal, says Saran
18 opposing lawmakers table motion
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran on Friday urged members of the U.S. Congress not to upset the "very, very delicate balance" of the civilian nuclear agreement by seeking amendments to the deal.

Speaking to reporters at the end of his three-day visit to Washington, Mr. Saran said: "We have been through extraordinary complex and difficult negotiations… I would very strongly hope that that balance is not disturbed."

However, a late-night agency report said India’s efforts to drum up Congressional support for the nuclear deal with the US appeared to have hit a glitch as some lawmakers belonging to India Caucus group have joined those opposed to the pact. Eighteen lawmakers, predominantly Democrat, have tabled a motion against the nuclear deal and to the embarrassment of New Delhi, at least 10 of them are members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

So far only a handful of members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, all of them Republicans, have co-sponsored an India-specific legislation to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. If passed, the amendment will allow the U.S. to share nuclear technology and fuel with India.

Mr. Saran met Senator Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee and his Democratic counterpart on the committee Tom Lantos, Congressmen Gary Ackerman, Joe Wilson, Senator Barack Obama and Delegate Eni Faleomavaega. Mr. Saran said in none of the meetings did the members talk about imposing conditions on the deal.

“If you start making revisions and changes, that balance is likely to be upset," he said. Diplomatic sources told The Tribune that members of Congress were aware of the "red lines" in the deal which neither the administration of President George W. Bush nor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government would be willing to shift.

Mr Saran said he got a sense that there was “indeed wide support on Capitol Hill for the evolving bilateral relations.”

“There is across the political spectrum very strong support for the India-U.S. partnership and even with regard to the civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement. I also pointed out to some of my interlocutors that this was not something that was pulled out as a rabbit out of a hat," he said, adding "there is ownership of this process" by both Democrats and Republicans.

However, the 180-member Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, the largest of its kind in the U.S. Congress, has given the deal a lukewarm reception. Mr. Saran contended that "these are early days yet, and whether or not there could be co-sponsors from the Democratic side or not, I think the sense we have is yes, there would be, as we go further into the debate."

Mr Saran admitted some members of the U.S. Congress he met had raised concerns about the consequences the deal would have on non-proliferation and whether the agreement would boost India's strategic programme. The Foreign Secretary was not surprised by the intense debate on the deal in Washington, or the many questions that had been raised. "The most important thing is that we believe we have very satisfactory answers to the questions that have been raised or to the concerns that have been expressed," he said.

He was optimistic that once the deal went through the "crucible of the debate and discussion," it would get stronger support.

Mr. Saran dismissed claims by Congressman Tom Lantos that India had trained Iranian troops in joint exercises last month. He described the visit by Iranian ships to Kochi as a "courtesy visit" and a “very normal activity.”

“Virtually all the congressmen I met said that they saw a great future in the India-U.S. relationship.

They were very excited about the progress that has already been made and were impressed by the very broad-ranging relationship which is emerging and were very pleasantly surprised that how quickly this transformation has come about," he said.

If the deal is not ratified, the Foreign Secretary reiterated an opinion he expressed earlier in his visit that "there will be a loss in terms of the expectations, which have been built up. There will be a loss. We should be cognizant of that.”



Pak seeks nuke deal with France

Islamabad, April 1
Pakistan has sought civilian nuclear cooperation with France, which concluded a similar deal with India in February this year.
Pakistan made the call before a four-member delegation of the French Senate Commission for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, headed by Mr Jean Francois-Poncet, former Foreign Minister that met Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri, in the Foreign Office yesterday. — UNI


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