Backing off from what has been widely construed as pressure on India to conclude the civil nuclear deal, a top US official said the deal could be approved by September in the US Congress.
Speaking to a select group of journalists on Wednesday, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said: “The key is to provide time for the Senate to ratify the final arrangement. We need to get the (123) Agreement approved by September, when the Senate adjourns.”
<b1>The deal did come up in his discussions here, he said, and while the government is in favour of the Agreement, “they are the best judge of how to move forward. The Indian government knows how best to handle its domestic political processes”.
Emphasising that the US’s relations with India was multi-faceted and “as large as we have with any country in the world”, Gates said ties between the world’s two largest democracies were not solely dependent on the deal. It was, however, a good deal for both countries and there was commitment to it from both administrations.
“Of all the areas of US foreign policy, the expanding India-US relationship will continue, whoever is in power in the White House,” he said.
He denied that the Communications Security Agreement had anything to do with setting up bases in India. “It is not true that the agreement provides for bases. It has nothing to do with bases,” he said. Instead, it would facilitate payment for use of each others’ facilities. “If anything, it will help the accountants!”
Gates, whose visit comes ahead of India’s (now extended to) April 28 deadline to bid for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, denied he had exerted any pressure on the government for US companies Lockheed and Boeing, which are in the reckoning.