US sets May deadline for nuke deal, Left, BJP fret, PM optimistic

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New Delhi, Feb 20 (UNI) The US today set a May deadline for India to send the civilian nuclear agreement to the Congress for its ratification by July even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asserted that there was no going back on the deal despite the ''dilemma'' his party was facing due to the Left's opposition.

The Left parties reacted strongly to the US deadline, saying the Americans had ''no business'' in forcing New Delhi to succumb on the issue and asserted that India was not a banana republic that it would bow before ''pressure tactics and intimidation''.

The BJP echoed the Left views, saying India could not be ''pressurised or coerced'' to go ahead with the deal.

The Congress, on its part, said the UPA Government would do what was in the best interest of the country and in consultation with the allies.

Three US Senators -- Joseph R Biden (Democrat), who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry (Democrat) and Chuch Hagel (Republican) -- said at a news conference here that it was critical for the Indian government to move on it (the deal) within weeks.

''If the agreement is not ratified by July, the next government will re-negotiate the terms and conditions,'' they added.

The Senators also said the new US administration could raise new issues regarding NPT and other such pacts.

''We are running out of time. If we do not have the deal back before us clearly prior to July, it is going to be different.....If we do not have the agreement in time, it is highly unlikely that the next President will present the same deal. It will be re-negotiated...India should settle the issue with the IAEA,'' Senator Biden said.

Senator Kerry said: ''It should come to the Congress in May so that it can be ratified by July end.'' The Prime Minister ruled out going back on the Indo-US nuclear deal despite the ''dilemma'' his party (Congress) was facing.

Senator Kerry said they met the Prime Minister with the message that no time should be lost in ratifying the deal.

Both sides agreed that Indo-US relations were good for long-term regional security, he said.

Asked about the Prime Minister's response, Senator Kerry said Dr Singh was optimistic about the deal.

''He was straightforward and spoke about the dilemma. We asked him whether or not it was over. He said no,'' said Senator Kerry, a former US Presidential candidate.

The Left parties asked the UPA government that it must not do anything in a hurry and respect the sense of Parliament, which was against the operationalisation of the accord.


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