Govt to speak on progress of Indo-US N-deal

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New Delhi, Mar 3 : The government is likely to make a statement in Parliament today that will seek to clarify various points on the progress of the Indo-US nuclear deal. Significantly, the statement will come a day ahead of the two-day visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher to India from Tuesday.

According to sources, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who will make the statement on 'Foreign policy issues', is expected to speak about the government's intent on the civil nuclear deal and the progress made in this regard. Mukherjee will indicate the status of the negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the safeguards agreement, which is a key step under the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Earlier onFeb 28, negotiators of India and IAEA concluded the fifth round of talks on the safeguards agreement and reported "considerable progress" towards the agreed text. It is, however, not clear how far the two sides have been able to resolve the differences over issues like India's right to build strategic fuel reserve and acknowledgement of its military nuclear programme by the global atomic watchdog.

Left allies of the Congress-led UPA coalition have alleged that there has been "undue, intense lobbying" by American leaders on India to conclude the deal before July and demanded that the government not to give in to such pressure. The Left parties have warned the government of serious consequences if it conclude the deal and have demanded that the agreement with IAEA be signed only after it was approved by them.

The US, which is anxious to conclude the agreement before the US Congress gets into the election mode, has been sending official delegations to persuade the Indian side with Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns setting the March-end deadline for it. Contending that it was now or never for India to get such a deal, Washington has been maintaining that if the agreement does not come before the US Congress by May-end or early June, it would be difficult to get it passed because of lack of time in the Presidential election year.

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh recently told a group of US Senators who recently visited India that there were "difficulties", apparently referring to the Left parties' stiff opposition to conclude the deal.

Mukherjee is also expected to talk about the status of ties with Russia and France in the backdrop of recent visits by their leaders, an update on ties with China and about Pakistan. The External Affairs Minister is expected to spell out India's approach towards the country in view of the latest developments. Besides, he is also likely to speak on the relationship of India with other countries like Nepal.

ANI

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