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'Bush Govt failed to consult Cong over Indo-US N-deal'

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 3: The Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement is turning out to be a ''controversial deal'' and a ''hard sell'' on Capitol Hill primarily because the Congress was not consulted, according to the Washington Post.

The agreement is in trouble because there was little consultation with Congress or within the foreign-affairs bureaucracy before it was announced, it said.

Last month in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush reached an agreement on how India will implement the deal. But nuclear specialists in the US government said their concerns about weapons proliferation also were overridden in final talks, the newspaper said.

The Washington Post report came just two days before Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is to defend the deal in her testimony before the US Congress.

The Post said beyond the invasion of Iraq, ''few of Bush's decisions have as much potential to shake the international order than his deal with India.'' The newspaper, a known critic of the deal, said after three decades of treating India as a pariah because it used a civilian nuclear programme to produce fissile material for weapons, Mr Bush decided the United States would forgive the transgression.

''He decided to change laws to enable India to buy foreign-made nuclear reactors if it opened its civilian facilities to international inspections -- while being allowed to substantially ramp up its ability to produce materials for nuclear weapons,'' the Post said.

Now, nuclear experts from across the political spectrum have urged Congress to modify the accord, which the administration and Indian officials say would be tantamount to killing it.

''There are times when you have to engage in incremental diplomacy and there are times you need someone who is willing to make a bold move. The president was willing a make a bold move towards India, and it is going to pay off for the United States now and into the future,'' the Post quoted Under secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, the chief negotiator on the deal.

Many diplomatic turning points, such as President Richard M Nixon's historic decision to open relations with China, are first conducted in secret because established bureaucracies tend to resist new ideas.

Senior US officials reject complaints that the expertise of government nonproliferation specialists was ignored. But, as one person involved in the policy development put it, ''it is no accident that [nuclear experts] were not included, because you didn't have to be a seer to know how much they would hate this.'' The Post also said the deal also goes against two national objectives -- the desire to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and the desire to counter the rise of China, in this case by accelerating New Delhi's ascent as a global power.

The newspaper has also carried an extensive background on how the deal came about from the stage of an idea in the Bush administration to its final announcement by President Bush during his visit to India early last month.


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