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N-deal: Bush lobbies for Congress nod

Authorities say reports of US wanting to have India as counterweight to China "might have been overplayed".

india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 16:15 IST

The United States has dismissed as "overplayed" reports that Indo-US civil nuclear deal was aimed at having India as a counterweight to China.

It also said that it was intensively lobbying to answer all questions of Congress on this "major initiative" and ensure strong support for it.

Reports talking of the Administration wanting to have a democratic India as a counterweight to China "might have been overplayed a bit," Acting State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said on Monday.

The pact was more than "blocking" or being "defensive" against other powers, he said.

"It was really more: How can we move India in the right direction and bring India into... integrate India more fully into the international energy realm as opposed to sort of geo-strategic manoeuvring?"

Speaking ahead of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's appearance on Wednesday before Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee, Ereli said, "I think this intensive lobbying, this intensive programme of briefing and consultations, reflects first and foremost a recognition that Congress has an important and necessary role to play in this initiative."

"We want to ensure that all their questions are answered and that there's strong support for what President (George W Bush) sees as a major initiative that is both good for non-proliferation and good for the region, good for our partner and good for American commercial interests, as well."

He said Rice's testimony "is but the latest in ... A fairly intensive effort to work with the members of the Hill, respond to their questions, answer their concerns and explain why this is a good deal that's in America's interests."

"I will tell you that this deal has been the subject ... Of intensive briefing efforts on the part of the administration, dating from the framework agreement in July," Ereli said, referring to the pact signed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush last year in Washington.

He said Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Richard Joseph, Assistant Secretary of State Stephen G Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher and other experts from the White House have been building up consensus on the nuclear deal.

They "have been beating a well-worn path to Capitol Hill over the last several months to explain this deal, to address concerns and, frankly, to build the level of consensus and understanding that we hope will see this bold and positive initiative through to fruition," Ereli remarked.

The driving force behind the deal, he said, was "to bring a nuclear programme under international safeguards and to help India develop its energy sector in a way that was consistent with both non-proliferation concerns and contribute to international stability and international investment, and that's a good thing."

Ereli further said that the nuclear deal slows down proliferation in the sense that Indian civilian facilities come under international inspection.

"It brings Indian civilian facilities under IAEA safeguards. And negotiations or talks with the IAEA is a part of this deal," he said referring to the UN nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency.