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Nuke deal in present form may create problems: Shourie

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
October 19, 2006 12:24 IST
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There will be 'unnecessary difficulties' in the future if the India-United States civilian nuclear deal is passed by US Congress in its present form, Rajya Sabha MP and former minister Arun Shourie has said.

The accord agreed upon by US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for 'full' cooperation in the civilian nuclear field, but the Bill coming out of US Congress does not adhere to this, he said in his address at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.

"The nuclear deal, if it goes through in its present form, will create unnecessary difficulties in the future," Shourie said.

He said the political fallout in India in the event of the deal not getting through Congress is that every political party will claim credit for it. The important aspect for India and the US to bear in mind is that while the contingencies of the other will have to be factored in, they should 'never' make any issue the test of bilateral ties.

"I think everybody on all sides of the Indian political spectrum will claim victory. The opposition will say that because of us something wrong was not done and the prime minister will say because 'I stood firm' the deal was not done," Shourie said.

"If it goes through then the prime minister will try to persuade all of us that the clauses 'you are worried about' are non-binding, etc," Shourie said.

Commenting on the implications of the Democrats returning to Capitol Hill as victors in the November 7 Congressional elections, Shourie said the 'rhetoric may change a little bit' but the Presidency may be bogged down to a situation in which Bush may not be able to 'deliver' the civilian nuclear agreement.

"The major thing will come out on the nuclear deal. The House and the Senate bills are so far apart, I don't know how they will be reconciled. With the executive seen as being bogged down by other things, the delivery (of the deal) will be that much more difficult," he said.

Shourie argued that till about five years ago, nuclear energy was no longer on the radar screen even in European nations and in the context of the India-US deal, the point has been made that some 30 years down the line only six percent of India's needs would be met by nuclear energy.

"That is not a figure we should jeopardise our relations on," Shourie said. "Never make any issue the test of United States-India relations."

He referred to the Enron controversy, wherein people had made the prediction that it would have a negative impact on bilateral relations.

Speaking of the 'sea-change' in the relations between India and the US and the new impetus given to the economic relationship, he said there were conscious efforts on both sides to forge closer economic ties in spite of differences.

Stressing the fact that there was no longer the 'export pessimism' in India, he said Indian industries have started taking on challenges overseas in their stride and 'India has just started scratching the surface'.

Shourie spoke of several promising areas in bilateral economic cooperation such as technology for clean environment; skilled manpower, opening up defence areas to private sectors especially in the realm of space, imagery and sensors.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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