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'Incredible India' was silent on nuke deal - Bush

world Updated: Sep 27, 2007 09:45 IST

IANS
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They talked about Indian culture, cuisine, art, the economy and growing trade ties with the US, but politicians and businesspersons in New York to market India were conspicuously quiet on the hottest topic of the season - the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

The top brass of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet is in New York for the four-day Incredible India@60 event to celebrate 60 years of Independence, and so are Indian business captains. And neither group mentioned the 'historic agreement', touted as a major milestone in the bilateral ties between the two largest democracies of the world. The event ended on Wednesday.

The 123 agreement, the Henry J Hyde Act, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) that have become household words back home were strangely missing.

It seemed as if the Left warning the government of serious consequences if New Delhi goes ahead with the deal and the fluid political situation back home have had their effect. Interestingly, there was also not a single reference to US President George W Bush, whom Manmohan Singh has referred to as 'India's best friend'.

All maintained an enigmatic silence - be it External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who inaugurated the festival at the historic Lincoln Centre, Commerce and Minister Kamal Nath, who spoke at length about strengthening ties with the US, Finance Minister P Chidrambaram, who painted a rosy picture of the Indian economy or Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi.

Kamal Nath was quick to react when asked whether the nuclear deal was a topic of discussion during the first meeting of the US-India Trade Policy Forum's Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG). "We discussed trade ties and the nuclear deal does not have any impact on it."

The one reference came from Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen who said in his address at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on Sunday, "No other issue has ever enthused and united the vibrant Indian-American community as the proposed agreement on civil nuclear cooperation."

Even American leaders preferred to avoid the contentious issue.

While addressing the gathering at Lincoln Centre, New York Senator Charles Schumer confined his speech to showering praise on Indian Americans. He even made a mention of the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, a close friend of President George Bush from the post of attorney general. But he did not utter a word on the nuclear deal.

Ditto with Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state, and US business chiefs who addressed different gatherings during the festival.

Surekha Adya, an Indian businessperson settled in the US, expressed her surprise that the most talked about issue in the Indian media figured nowhere in the discourse, "I see reports in Indian media - which I read over the net - about the nuclear deal and the hullabaloo over it. But I have not heard anybody mentioning it.

"And most amazingly, nobody mentioned even Bush's name."