India has 30 days to act on nuke deal: Burns

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{image-indo-us n-deal_01032008.jpg www.oneindia.com}Washington, March 1: Outgoing US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns, has said India has a month's time to act on the US-India civil nuclear cooperation deal. If approved, the deal would give India access to US nuclear fuel and equipment for the first time in 30 years despite having tested nuclear weapons and refused to join the non-proliferation regime.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government has been hesitant in signing the deal, as their Communist allies believe it would infringes on the country's sovereignty. "Well, I think it's important to note that the US Congress will go out of session in July 2008, and, if you back up from there, and try to estimate the time that it will take for the Nuclear Suppliers' Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to act, we do need the Indian Government to act in the next 30 days on the IAEA process in order to move the other pieces forward. I think that's the point Senator Joseph Biden was trying to make to media when he was in New Delhi last week," Burns said in an interview on Friday.

After fulfilling these requirements India needs a final approval from the U.S. Congress, where it enjoys bipartisan support. But, time is running out for its legislative calendar is very short ahead of the November 4 elections in the United States.

Burns said the US is keen to broaden relations with India in various fields, but this depends on the deal being signed.

"I think we still retain bipartisan support. We have strong Republican and Democratic party support. There's a great sense in our country that we have an opportunity to build a relationship with India across the board, not just in the civil nuclear domain, but also in agriculture, education, in space research. And so, we want to get on with that, and we want to fulfil the potential that this relationship has on a global basis, and that's certainly in the interest of both the countries," he said.

The Bush Administration regards the deal as the beginning of a new, strategic relationship between Washington and New Delhi, and has stressed that the deal will help India meet its energy needs and also provide business opportunities for American companies.

Western non-proliferation experts have criticised the deal, saying it may hinder efforts to stop the spread of nuclear arms.

When asked about relations between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan Burns said peaceful relations between the two is a must for the entire world.

"We hope that when the new Government is fully put together in Pakistan and takes office, that there will be an opportunity to resume the forward movement on the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan. Which has been so important. The relationship between the two governments over the past several years has been very good. They've made a lot of progress on difficult issues that had previously separated them. And of course, it's in the interest of the entire world that India and Pakistan have a normal and businesslike relationship free of the sense of crisis that appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000 and 2001," he said.

Burns lauded officials of both countries for doing a fine job on the Kashmir issue and hoped it would continue further.

"Well, that would be up to India and Pakistan. And, the people of the region to decide that there can be progress on that issue, and I think that India has done very well to have a consistent policy toward Pakistan during these last several months that have been ones of instability inside Pakistan itself," he said.

ANI

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