N-deal: Pranab confesses to political problems

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Washington, Mar 25: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee here publicly voiced his government's interest in implementing the landmark US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, but acknowledged that there was some probllem back home.

''We have some political problems in our country. Currently, we are engaged in resolving those problems, he made this observation at a joint press briefing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after their talks here yesterday. Obviously, the minister was referring to the resistance to the deal offered by his government's Left allies but he did not name them. Secretary Rice, responded by saying, the agreement will be ''good for both sides and good for the future of nonproliferation, as many experts, including [IAEA chief] Mohamed ElBaradei, have said. And so we will continue to work on that agreement.''

The deal, which was signed in 2005 during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US, envisages sale of American nuclear technology and fuel to India and, in return, the latter had to subject its non-military nuclear installations to international safeguards.

''The second stage, to have the approval of the Board of Governors of IAEA in respect of India's specific safeguard agreement, we are currently engaged with IAEA. The discussions are over, but the agreements are yet to be initialed and approved by the Board of Governors. In that stage, we are currently engaged with various political parties who are supporters of our coalition government in India. And the discussion is still going on,'' he added.

He also appreciated Rice's personal contribution in the transformation of India-US relations and giving them a strong foundation for the future.''The record number of landmark developments in India-US ties over the last few years would not have been possible without a broad-based convergence of interests and concerns between our two countries,''he added.

He said that the India-US partnership is based on bedrock of long-term commitments and a shared vision.

During his discussion with Secretary Rice, the minister said, they agreed to maintain the ''positive momentum generated particularly by the visits of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to United States in July 2005 and that of President Bush to India in March 2006.'' There is a broad overlap in our interests and objectives, and we intend to supplement our dialogue with a closer working-level interaction on a regular basis within the Ministry of External Affairs in India and the US State Department, Mr Mukherjee .


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