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US now says there’s little time left

As the UPA decides whether to go ahead with the India-US nuclear agreement in spite of vehement opposition from its Left allies, analysts here say it will have to move fast to get the deal through the US Congress.

world Updated: Jun 22, 2008 02:47 IST
V Krishna

After a tough decision, India faces a tight schedule.

As the UPA decides whether to go ahead with the India-US nuclear agreement in spite of vehement opposition from its Left allies, analysts here say it will have to move fast to get the deal through the US Congress. The longer it takes, the tougher the going will get.

“There is enough time but not a lot,” said Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday, “Every single day that the Indian Government delays and has delayed is a day that makes it much more difficult to get this done. All of that said, we'll of course continue to work very closely with Senator (Joe) Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as others on that committee, should the Indian government get to a different place.”

Before the agreement can be taken up by the US Congress for a vote, two other steps have to be completed: India will have to sign a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the US will have to secure a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. It is not clear exactly how much time these steps will take.

Even if IAEA and NSG approvals are speeded up, the going may not be smooth. “The timing issue for the US is that the final legislation must sit for 90 days in the US Congress before being acted on,” said Teresita C. Schaffer, director of the South Asia Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.