US Senator optimistic about nuke deal
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said there was a "positive" mood in the US Congress about prospects of N-deal.india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 22:20 IST
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on Monday said there was a "positive" mood in the US Congress about the prospects of the India-US civil nuclear deal and hoped the deal will be ratified by it before the end of the year.
Hagel, who is a member of influential Congressional panels including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and briefed him on the "general positive mood and optimism" on Capitol Hill about the nuclear deal getting approval before the end of this year.
"I hope that this agreement will be ratified before the end of this year. The general mood is very positive. This is a big and important issue," Hagel told reporters.
"Both the Senate and the House must ratify this agreement. I can't predict when this will be ratified, but the Congress is very interested in it," said Hagel, a senator from Nebraska.
"It's a step forward not only for India but also for the whole world. I hope we will finish before the November Congressional elections," he hoped.
Placing the deal in a historical perspective, Hagel said: "Strategically, it represents one of the most thoughtful approaches to foreign policy in the last 25 years."
Hagel's India trip coincides with that of a Congressional delegation headed by House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert.
Hastert will be here on Tuesday and discuss the evolving Congressional position on the nuclear deal with senior officials.
Hagel's optimistic remarks about the nuclear deal comes soon after US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said here that the nuclear deal will go through the Congress despite some opposition.
He, however, expressed surprise at Boucher's advice to India last week to "further define its credible minimum deterrent," - a suggestion which was rejected outright by New Delhi.
"I am not quite clear how he made that comment. This reflects in no way any new condition on the deal," said Hagel as he rebutted reports of the administration trying to impose additional conditions on India over the deal.
"The questions on Iran are legitimate. But the Iranian issue is not a condition for the deal," he said in response to a question on Washington's alleged pressure on New Delhi over its relations with Tehran.
"What we are evaluating is the deal agreed between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," he clarified.
"This is an agreement made not to isolate Pakistan or China. It was made on its own merits," said Hagel, who will also go to Pakistan and Afghanistan.