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Nuke deal: Wait-and-watch time before lame-duck session
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 11
Two days before the Senate starts its lame duck session where the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation Bill is believed to be high on the agenda list, it is time for quiet and patient diplomacy for the South Block mandarins.

Under the circumstances, this is the only thing that India can do. The Government of India does not even know for how long the lame duck session of the Congress is going to last, what is the agenda, when the nuclear Bill will be taken up for discussion, with what amendments, and so on.

“You are asking me to predict the second innings scores when the test match is scheduled to start days later,” a senior official used the cricket simile when asked for an update on Indo-US nuclear deal.

While the Indian officials are keeping their fingers crossed, Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s words to them here yesterday have cockled up their hearts. The South Block’s perception on the fate of nuclear Bill has dramatically changed from negative to tentative to positive over the past couple of days.

Moreover, the Indo-US relations are set to break into higher league as the world’s biggest and richest democracies are about to start the next phase of their in-depth, all- comprehensive cooperation. A string of high level official visits from the US in the coming days is a powerful index of this.

Mr Boucher will return to New Delhi on November 17 for the Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan. The following American officials are going to visit India in days to come:

* Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Marion C Blakely (Nov 13-14) - Ms Blakely will sign an MOA with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to expand US-India cooperation in this area and build on Open Skies agreement.

* Under Secretary of Defence Eric C. Edelman (Nov 16) - Mr Edelman will lead a defence delegation to the Defence Policy Group which will meet on November 16.

* Secretary Mike Johaans (Nov 19-21) - Secretary of Agriculture Johaans will visit to discuss trade and agriculture issues.

* Deputy Director of the FBI John S. Pistole (Nov 25-27) - His visit towards the end of November highlights growing Indo-US cooperation in law enforcement and counter terrorism.

* Deputy USTR Karan K. Bhatia (Nov 26-28) - His visit includes participation in the World Economic Forum and a meeting of the US-India Trade Policy Forum.

* Under Secretary of Commerce Franklin L. Lavin and US Trade Mission (Nov 29 - Dec 6) - The largest bilateral trade mission ever will begin in Mumbai and then send US companies to cities across India to explore business opportunities.



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