US pledges to bat for India at IAEA, NSG

Friday, 23 February 2007, 06:00 Hrs
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Washington: The United States has pledged to be India's supporter in getting the necessary clearances from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) for their civil nuclear deal.

Washington also respected India's position with regard to nuclear tests, while President George Bush personally provided assurances regarding continued supply of nuclear fuel to India, chief US negotiator of the deal Nicholas Burns said Thursday trying to rest New Delhi's concerns.

They had "already climbed the mountain" with the passage of the enabling US law and crossed over the biggest issues and he was quite optimistic about working out the implementing bilateral 123 agreement, Burns said after a public "conversation" with visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Menon, who had Wednesday had an over three-hour long session with Burns, agreed. There was a basic understanding already in terms of the July 18, 2005 joint statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bush.

Their task now was to translate that understanding into legal terms in the bilateral 123 agreement. It was not their job to try to renegotiate the deal, he said during a question-answer session after the "conversation" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.

Burns, who is undersecretary of state for political affairs, is planning an India visit in a couple of weeks to continue his talks on the 123 agreement with the prime minister's special envoy on the nuclear deal Shyam Saran. He was hopeful that the whole process leading to the agreement going back to the US Congress for an up or down vote would be completed by the end of the year.

Menon, however, would not set a timeframe beyond saying a cryptic "quicker the better". There was, he said, nothing in the July 18 understanding that contravenes either the Indian or US law. It was thus just a question of "ingenuity" how to do it with some thinking outside the box.

Besides the civil nuclear deal, which Burns described as the "symbolic centrepiece" of their new transformed relationship, he and Menon had discussed a whole gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues.

From what Burns called the "ultimate unfilled relationship", India-US ties had transformed into a "full spectrum" of what Manmohan Singh described as a "partnership of principles and pragmatism", said Menon while underlining a convergence of views from bilateral to global issues.

"This convergence of interests offered opportunities like never before and we are determined to take them," he said.

India and US now have a strong bilateral, regional and global agenda. They were working together on issues of democracy and human rights in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal and on combating aids, trafficking in women and narcotics trade elsewhere, Burns said.

As victims and prospective victims of terrorism, US and India had a convergence of interests in fighting terrorism by means including outside military action, he said and suggested strengthening economic systems to prevent money laundering and a diplomatic offensive to keep it as a major issue.

International cooperation, intelligence sharing, knowing the enemy and seeing how to make it difficult for the terrorists to operate were essential elements in the global war against terror and "we are determined to fight it", said Menon.

On non-proliferation, Burns said India had been kept in isolation for too long. The nuclear deal had brought it into the international system.

India was ready to be part of a "new non-proliferation consensus" to meet the issues of the future, added Menon, suggesting moving on to a commitment to non- first use of nuclear weapons as an element.

On Pakistan, Burns said for the first time Washington had effectively "de-hyphenated" its relationship with India and Pakistan. It had "a unique relationship with both, but very, very different".

India's relationship with Pakistan had seen its ups and downs with terrorism and other pending issues coming in the way, said Menon. But now with mechanisms like the composite dialogue in place, they could move forward. A peaceful and stable Pakistan was in India's interest to maintain the pace of its economic growth.

On China, Burns said the India-US relationship was not designed to contain China as suggested by some. It was neither possible nor desirable to contain China, he stressed and added that US was working with Beijing to encourage it to be a part of the international system.

Menon again cited Singh to suggest that there is enough space for a rising India and a rising China and the transformed India-US relationship does not have to be seen negatively from Beijing.

On US support for a permanent UN Security Council seat, Burns said Washington was for a "dramatic but gradual" expansion of the decision making body as part of a modernisation process reflecting the realities of today. But no realistic proposal had come forward so far.
Source: IANS
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