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Rice arrives, N-deal may not be signed today

CNN-IBN
Oct 04, 2008 at 04:51pm IST

New Delhi: There seems to be a last-minute hiccup in the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal even as US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice has arrived in New Delhi.

It seems as if the Americans side is in for a dissapointment because India has made it clear that there will be no signing of the deal till US President George W Bush signs the nuclear co-operation Bill into law.

ALSO SEE US fuels India's concerns, no word on fuel supply

Meanwhile, it is as yet unclear when President Bush plans to sign the Bill - approved by Congress this week - into law. Sources say Bush plans a grand public signing ceremony with the Indian-American community, the business community and other vocal backers of the deal present.

The key hurdle for now relates to fuel supply guarantees, which were diluted, say the Indians, in the Bill cleared by Congress. India is therefore expecting a formal statement from Bush clarifying the American administration's position on that.

ALSO SEE Rice reminds N-deal rider: No testing or auto cut-off

The 123 Agreement is also not ready yet and may not be signed by the two sides on Saturday. In fact, Rice had hinted at this possibility a few hours ago in remarks made en-route to India.

"It's got to be worked out at the last minute because there are so many administrative issues that we have to deal with," she had stated.

ALSO SEE What the Indo-US nuclear deal means

Rice however, claims that her trip is not in vain as she will use the time talking about the next steps in the Indo-US relationship as opposed to the last step - the sealing of the deal.

Sources though say that the Americans though are extremely upset, saying Rice was making a special trip just to sign this deal on Saturday.

The deal if signed will allow US companies to enter into contract for nuclear reactors, equipment and high technology, denied to India for 34 years.

But even as the two nations toast each other, they may not be able to put all Indian concerns under the red carpet.

Some of the concerns that India has are:

  • What kinds of sanctions would follow if its conducts a nuclear test?
  • Whether the US will guarantee fuel supply to India?
  • And what else the US will want? Will India now be under pressure to buy other equipment like fighter jets from the US.

Rice had earlier indicated that while the US would honour its commitments to India regarding their civil nuclear deal, the contentious Hyde Act would come into play if India tests again.

"I think we have been very clear about US views on this issue," she had said on Friday on her way to New Delhi following the Congressional approval of the implementing 123 Agreement when asked if it was part of her mission to deliver a warning message about not testing.

"The Indians have a lot at stake here," said Rice without explicitly saying how would the US react in the event of an Indian test. " And they have made very clear that what they want to do is they want to move on to civil nuclear cooperation. And I think they understand the grounds on which we've done this.

"The United States is going to remain true to its commitments under the Hyde Act (the US enabling law) and true to the commitments that President Bush has made to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. And I know that the Indians will do the same," she said

Now it may be upto Bush, for whom the deal constitutes a rare foreign policy success, to put all those concerns at rest when he finally puts his signature to Bill into law.

Meanwhile, CPI-M Politburo member Sitaram Yechury slammed the government for compromising India's sovereignty over the nuclear deal. He has charged the Prime Minister of violating assurances given in Parliament.

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