Deal passage to clear way for deepening Indo-US ties: Rice

Washington, Sep 27 | Updated: Sep 29 2008, 04:05am hrs
As the Congress considers the Indo-US nuclear deal, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has lent strong support to the agreement and said its passage will clear the way to deepen the strategic relationship with India.

In a letter to the House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, she said Congress has an unprecedented and historic opportunity before it to ensure that the US and India complete the journey we began together three years ago.

I am writing to express my strong support for the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act, Rice said in the letter that comes just hours after President George W Bush said his administration is working hard to get deal passed as quickly as possible.

The agreement marks the culmination of a decade-long process of Indias emergence on the international stage and the Indian governments effort to steer a more pragmatic and realistic course in foreign affairs, Rice wrote to Pelosi, who is a key player in getting the deal through.

For the United States, passage of this legislation will clear the way to deepen the strategic relationship with India, Rice said in the letter dated September 26.

She also maintained that the agreement will open significant opportunities for American firms, help meet Indias surging energy requirements in an environment-friendly manner, and bring India into the global nuclear nonproliferation mainstream.

We have an unprecedented and historic opportunity before us. With this legislation, Congress will help ensure that the United States and India complete the journey we began together three years ago, and ensure that US industry just like its international counterparts is able to engage with India on civil nuclear trade, Rice said in the letter to Pelosi.

Separately, Rice told a news agency that the Bush administration is working very hard for the approval of the nuclear deal but stressed the time is short. She answered in the affirmative when told that it seems to be a fairly significant boost that the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman introduced a legislation identical to the Senate version for the approval of the nuclear deal, according to the transcript of the interview released by the state department.

Rice also clarified on the wording of Berman pertaining to how the US intends to pursue at the NSG this November on the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment.

Berman had told his colleagues in the House that he agreed to introducing the bill identical to the Senate version because Rice made a personal commitment to me. The commitment, he had said, was that in a change of policythe United States will make its highest priority at the November meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group the achievement of a decision to prohibit the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to states that are not signatories of the NPT .

When asked to comment on Bermans use of the word prohibit, Rice said, I think the wording actually is to seek strict limits on, according to the transcript. At the NSG, the United States has pursued this policy in the past, but we have pursued several other initiatives at the same time. And what I said to chairman Berman, given that the administration is coming to an end, this is something that we hope is doable. I couldnt make any promises about delivery, but we would seek to do this, Rice clarified.

You know that the President has spoken about the need to do something about enrichment and reprocessing. And I think a global approach to this issue of the technologies is an appropriate one. But this has been our policy. But I think what chairman Berman is speaking to is that we had also paired it with several other initiatives, and well seek this one as the highest priority now, she said.

Asked if she can really get a deal, Rice replied, Well work on it... I know there is a lot of support in the NSG for it, but the NSG is 45 countries and well just have to go on working.

PTI