Manmohan, Bush discuss troubled nuclear deal

Manmohan, Bush discuss troubled nuclear deal

Washington: President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the US-India nuclear cooperation deal on Monday amid signs the controversial pact is in political trouble in India.

The two leaders who signed the nuclear agreement in July 2005 spoke by telephone in a conversation that also covered world trade talks and the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in military-ruled Myanmar, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement.

Johndroe gave no details on what Singh and Bush said about the nuclear agreement, which would allow India to import US nuclear fuel and reactors although India has tested nuclear weapons and not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In India, the Singh government’s communist allies had threatened to withdraw crucial parliamentary support if it pressed ahead with the deal. The communists have argued that the deal would make India subservient to US interests.

In a meeting with the left last week, the Singh government agreed to continue talks with the left, and put on hold negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency that are crucial to the deal, which also needs to get through the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The delays threaten to cause debate on the agreement in the United States to drag well into 2008, when Washington will be focused on presidential and congressional elections.

Asked about reports from India that the agreement was doomed, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said he remained confident that it would retain support in the United States, where Congress must approve any changes made during India’s negotiations with the IAEA and NSG.

“When you look at both the support that this has had here in the United States, in a bipartisan way, I think we have expectation that when we get to that point we’ll be able to have broad bipartisan support for this as well," he told reporters.

Rep. Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said the deal was too important to die.

“I would suspect there might be a delay because of the political situation in India, but don’t count this deal out," said the New York Democrat.