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Obama supports Indo-US nuclear deal

US Democratic presidential candidate says he voted for the US-India nuclear agreement because India is a strong democracy and a natural strategic partner for the US in the 21st century.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2008 01:02 IST
Jonathan Allen

US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama supports a civilian nuclear trade deal between India and the United States and would not push for changes to it, an Indian news magazine quoted him as saying.

"I voted for the US-India nuclear agreement because India is a strong democracy and a natural strategic partner for the US in the 21st century," he told Outlook magazine, according to a transcript provided by the magazine on Friday.

His support may prove decisive if India fails to finalise the deal before the end of US President George W. Bush's term.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shook hands on the deal, which gives India access to US nuclear resources and technology for energy, in 2005. Since then it has been stalled by opposition from the anti-US communist allies of India's coalition government, and at moments almost given up for dead.

The communists this week withdrew support for the government, which now faces a confidence vote despite moving to prop up its position in parliament with the help of a regional party whose leader backs the deal.

India must surmount other time-consuming hurdles before the end of the Bush administration, including approval from U.N. atomic watchdog governors and a 45-nation group that controls nuclear trade.

If India misses the effective deadline of the November US elections, it may seek to revive the deal under the next administration, although pessimists say it may have to agree to less favourable terms.

But Obama said he was broadly happy with the current deal.

"The existing agreement effectively balanced a range of important issues, from our strategic relationship with India to our non-proliferation concerns to India's energy needs," he told the magazine, which will publish the interview on Saturday.

"I am therefore reluctant to seek changes."

He said the deal would help combat global warming by giving India an alternative to coal and that he hoped it would be finalised by the end of this year.