M A I N   N E W S

It’s now or never: Mulford
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 9
US ambassador to India David C. Mulford was categoric that “it is now or never for the nuclear deal and if it is not processed in the present US Congress it is unlikely that the deal will be offered again to India”.

“I do not believe the deal will be revived and offered by any administration - Democratic or Republican - before the year 2010, which is after the life of this administration, in India. If it is to be revived it would have to go through the committee process and I think non-proliferation groups would insist on changes in terms or additional conditions. So I think the atmosphere is changing and, therefore, this is the time to finish the deal,” the ambassador observed in an interview to CNN-IBN programme Devil’s Advocate.

Asked if he was saying that “it
is now or never (for the deal)”, Mulford contended: “It is pretty close to it.”

Noting that the Indo-US nuclear deal can be India’s passport to the world, Mulford said: “Americans are puzzled that this agreement was not immediately embraced and activated by India. He had no doubt that India’s refusal to conclude the deal would not damage the Indo-US relationship.”

He made it clear that “there is no agreement or undertaking that if the 123 Agreement goes through India will make purchases or acquire technology from America”.

“It’s a competitive market and my belief is that if this (123 Agreement) goes through, India will become the centre of a civil nuclear industry in the world.”

He said the Bush administration and the Congress had changed the country’s 1954 Atomic Energy Act to accommodate India and this was the first time such a change had been made, which was an initiative of historic importance.

Stoutly refusing statements made by the CPI and the CPM that the US intention behind the deal was to convert India into a subordinate ally in South Asia, the ambassador insisted “that is completely untrue”.

He said the USA wanted to assist India in achieving its “global vision of emerging as a major economic power in the world”.

He expressed his willingness to meet CPM general secretary Prakash Karat to try to remove his concerns. He also denied reports in a section of the media that the USA had put pressure on India not to pursue the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

He also denied that signing the 123 Agreement meant India would lose its right to carry out further nuclear tests.

On the proposed agreement not giving India the unequivocal right to reprocess, the ambassador said: “The right was granted upfront for reprocessing as a part of the 123 Agreement.”

Asked if the agreement would facilitate full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the USA, he said: “I don’t think it is a problem. That happens to be the US law and it applies to the whole world, including India.”

He said there was no deadline for the Indo-US deal to be returned to the US Congress to ensure it was passed during President Bush’s time in office.

Asked about India facing difficulties in negotiating a safeguards agreement, he replied: “I see no reason why the agreement with the IAEA can’t be achieved. I would be very surprised if that weren’t achievable.”

On the capacity of the USA to secure for India a clear and unconditional clearance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the ambassador was cautious in his response.

“We’re all hoping for that (a clean and unconditional clearance) but this is an extremely sensitive process. I think it is achievable but I think it will take some time and take some political energy...our opinion is very strong that we hope the NSG will go for a relatively simple consensus and a clean solution,” Mulford added.



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