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US prepared for Left hurdle

Washington, Oct. 17: The Bush administration had made allowances for hiccups such as the opposition from Left parties and internally envisaged operationalisation of the nuclear deal only by the end of 2008.

This came through at a briefing yesterday by Tom Casey, deputy spokesman of the US state department. “We would hope that...India would be able to move forward with this agreement and that we would be able to complete it in 2008, which was in general keeping with the original timeframe we had outlined for it,” Casey said in reply to a question whether New Delhi had indicated that it may not be able to complete the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“It is an issue that we have talked about with the Indians,” Casey revealed.

The deputy spokesman was asked a pointed question on whether the state department “still maintains” that the deal can be completed by 2008 or if it was mere wishful thinking. He confidently asserted that “we believe it is still possible for that to happen. Obviously, a number of things would have to occur for that to be ultimately implemented. But it is a long time between now and the end of 2008 and we will see where we are”.

Casey said the telephone conversation between US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was preceded by talks between the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns, and officials in South Block during the weekend.

He said those conversations continued yesterday. “So this is something I expect is going to continue to be the subject of discussion.”

Simultaneously, Burns met a group of Indian MPs who are here representing the India-US Forum of Parliamentarians (IUFP). He told the MPs that the US ambassador to India, David Mulford, who is viewed here as having a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, had been instructed not to say anything in public that would add fuel to the domestic political fire over the deal.

“We will not say anything here that further complicates the situation,” an MP quoted Burns on condition of anonymity because the meeting was on and it not to be discussed with the media.

Casey then said something that will not be music to the ears of the Left parties. He said the Bush administration was committed to “a much broader shift in the relations between India and the US” never mind the pace or the fate of the nuclear deal.

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