United States leading Republican Senator John McCain has expressed doubts about the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal being endorsed by the US Congress before the end of this year.
"The Congress needs to scrutinise the deal more closely to avoid a precedent being set by giving an exemption to India which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT)," the presidential aspirant from Arizona said.
"I understand, but when you carve out an exemption then of course you run the risk of others wanting the same exemption," McCain in an interview with the Financial Times said on Monday.
Expressing fears about how easy it was for nations to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities, McCain said, "Look at AQ Khan's success. It is just that the technology is more readily available. We have people who are capable of working on these projects and it is one of the great challenges of the 21st century."
He said even though he is fully in favour of having good relations with India, there are some concerns and several questions in the deal that the US Senate has to examine, before it can give the green signal.
Asked whether the Indo-US deal would complicate matters concerning nonproliferation goals of the US, McCain said, "Despite the assurances given by India about its export controls and not to pass on the technology to third parties, he had second thoughts on making an exception in American laws to benefit one nation."
McCain said, "The Senate has to address this issue. I understand why they did it (the nuclear deal) and its benefits. And I am not saying I will oppose it, but would like to hear more argument in its favour. I understand our unique relationship with India."
He also mentioned the concern lawmakers have regarding India and Pakistan having nuclear weapons and the success of the AQ Khan network that sends a different kind of signal.
On being asked what he thought about India's civilian reactors being under safeguards but not the military ones, McCain said, "An element of risk is always there."
"I believe the Senate needs to be fully briefed and Senator Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar hold hearings, and we go through the regular process. I have a tendency to support it, but I really think we need to be well informed and play our role," he said.
To a query, on whether it means that prospects for movement of the deal through Congress this year are not good, McCain said, "You will have to talk to Lugar as he is more informed, but what I can tell is that it is unlikely we get the deal resolved this year.