US envoy says "now or never" for India-US nuke deal

Business Materials 9 February 2008 14:03 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The US ambassador to India has cautioned New Delhi that it could be "now or never" for a bilateral civil nuclear energy deal, saying the pact was unlikely to be offered again, a media report said Saturday.

The envoy, David Mulford said the deal was good for India and would make the country a hub of civil nuclear industry in the world.

"If this is not processed in the present Congress, it is unlikely that this deal will be offered again to India," Mulford said in an interview to the CNN-IBN news channel telecast Saturday.

"It certainly will not be revived and offered by any administration, Democratic or Republican, before the year 2010, which is after the life of this administration," he told CNN-IBN.

When asked if he was saying it is "now or may be never" for the nuclear deal, Mulford said, "That's pretty close to it."

Earlier this week, the Indian establishment had also said the deal should be finalized soon.

The nuclear deal has been stalled by opposition from the left-wing partners of the ruling coalition, who said the deal would give the US leverage over India's foreign and security policies.

The communist parties have threatened to withdraw support for Manmohan Singh's government over the issue, which could result in early general elections.

India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India might face global isolation and possible "sanctions" if the nuclear deal with the US was not finalized.

The deal would allow the US to provide nuclear technology and materials for Indian civilian reactors even though New Delhi has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Mukherjee said India and the International Atomic Energy Agency were still negotiating the draft safeguards agreement which was required to implement the civilian nuclear deal.

Once the draft was ready, the Indian government would hold talks with its communist partners and discuss the text.

New Delhi was looking at pacts with countries that could supply nuclear fuel, Mukherjee said, adding that the nuclear deal would pave the way for nuclear cooperation with not only the US, but also France, Russia and other countries.