Saturday, 8 March 2008

Indo-US nuclear deal: Mulford sets June deadline


March 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 7: US Ambassador to India David C Mulford said on Friday that the US government was not "pushing" the Indo-US civil nuclear deal on India, but he sets a deadline of June.
"I do not want to comment on the political process in India. We are not pushing the deal. We are only explaining the time table. We want to make it clear that there's misunderstanding," Mulford told a select group of reporters here.
Mulford is currently in the city to review the arrangements for the proposed US consulate in Hyderabad, and participate in a private programme on the eve of the International Women's Day organised by Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences and Usha Vijaylakshmi Foundation. He is accompanied by his wife Jenny Mulford.
He said the US was for early signing of the agreement to gain the international approval through the IAEA Board of Governors, the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as the US Congress to bring it to operation before the term of the Congress ends. "We have Presidential elections later this year.
There's a timeline and things have to start happening now," he said adding that the political process is late. The US Ambassador made it clear that his government would not interfere in the internal politics. "We respect the Indian political process. But the deal has to be in place by June so that the US Congress can act on it," he said.
Referring to the proposed US Consulate in the city, Mulford hoped that it would process about a lakh visa applications a year. "It's pretty good business," he added.
The Hyderabad office will provide full range of consul services. In future it may handle some of the diplomatic services now being looked after by US embassy in New Delhi. "We have 23 federal government representatives dealing with different subjects in New Delhi. Some of these entities can be brought to Hyderabad. I do not know which will come first," he said.
He said the Hyderabad consulate would be ready in October-November this year, though technically it's already operational. It would be pretty large in the next five years. The Hyderabad office will have 14 to 15 visa windows and substantial staff. It will be a full-fledged consulate.
To a question he said there was no decrease in business visits to the US following depreciation of US dollar. He said the US embassy in India had processed 7,25,000 visa applications last year. The US mission in India stands at No. 2 after Mexico and 65 per cent of H1B visas issued in the world are from India. "We expect there will be 20 to 30 per cent increase in US visa applications," he said.
Mulford said the US mission in India had taken steps to reduce the numbers of days for visa interviews from 187 days in 2006 to 110 days now. The Hyderabad office will further bring down the waiting period since it will reduce the travel time to Chennai.
The US consulate in Chennai will be expanded as also the New Delhi embassy where there will be 50 visa windows.

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