While the Centre mulls on how to proceed forward with the civil nuclear deal, the United States administration has no problem signing the 123 Agreement even if the Indian government loses its parliamentary majority.
In probably the clearest statement of their desire to see the civil nuclear deal through during the term of the current (George) Bush administration, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said, “We can sign an agreement with a duly constituted government, whatever its political status,” Boucher said in an interview to a magazine.
His statement directly contradicts External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who said a government that does not enjoy a majority could not and should not sign such a major agreement.
“A minority government cannot, need not and should not sign a major agreement like this,” Mukherjee had said.
With Mukherjee set to visit Washington later this month, the government’s Left allies are likely to blast Boucher for putting pressure on the government and trying to bypass the Indian democratic procedures.
The Left-UPA committee (mechanism) is due to meet on Monday to chalk out what the government should do. With India having concluded its negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the government’s decision on how it would proceed with Washington will depend on the consensus within the committee.
The timeline for the government to maneuver the deal through the subsequent stages is limited because of the US elections.
Prior to Mukherjee’s visit, India’s Ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, has signaled the government’s commitment to the civil nuclear deal, saying India would only be bound by the 123 Agreement. He, however, cautioned against setting any deadlines.
“As far as we are concerned — the government of India —we are committed to the bilateral agreement which we have worked out after long negotiations...What we are bound by is the 123 Agreement,” Sen said at a seminar in Washington on Wednesday.
“There is a debate going on in both our countries... As democracies we have to take decisions through our democratic process,” the Indian envoy said. “But I don’t think any of us would want to lecture the other on what we should do or should not,” Sen said.