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India thrilled with deal: Burns
Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | December 13, 2006 23:12 IST
Asked by Rediff India Abroad whether despite some of its public reservations and cautious reaction to the Conference Committee report, India could live with the legislation in its current form since the provisions that New Delhi had concerns over had only been 'tweaked' and not dropped, Burns, said, "The way the Congress ended up in the conference report is a deal that is acceptable to the United States and I understand is acceptable to India."
Burns returned to Washington from New Delhi on Sunday. In a conference call with Indian correspondents answering Rediff India Abroad, Burns disclosed, "That was what the Indian government told me in private meetings and that's essentially how I understood Foreign Minister (Pranab) Mukherjee's statement in the Parliament as well."
Burns argued that even though some of the sections in the House and Senate bills that India had argued were a case of 'moving the goal-posts' and not in keeping with the July 2005 and March 2006 US-India Joint Statements, "...our view is that the action the Congress took in conference last week were fully commensurate and well within the parameters of the two joint statements of 2005 and 2006."
He maintained, "The Congress did make a number of adjustments that we think did deal in large part with some of the objections that India had registered and we are very grateful to the Congress for the leadership. I called Congressman (Tom) Lantos yesterday and I thanked him for the leadership Congress had given."
"We are contacting all the members of the Committees who voted to thank them for their support," he added.
With regard to the bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation agreement -- also known as the 123 agreement, Burns said during his visit to India the US had left the Indians with a draft proposal and were awaiting New Delhi's response.
The 123 agreement says that US and India are still negotiating and it has to be completed along with a safeguards' agreement between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency if the deal is to be consummated.
"Once we get the response to our proposal," he said, "...we will make sure that our team is available immediately for meeting. I agree with Ambassador Saran and Foreign Secretary (Shiv Shankar) Menon that all of us want to push these negotiations forward on a very rapid pace in January and February and I am optimistic that we'll be able to complete this."
In his opening remarks, Burns spoke of "how pleased we are in the United States at the reaction that the civil nuclear legislation has received in India."
"We are convinced on the basis of my trip and my discussions with the Indian leadership that this is the right way forward," he said. He noted that he had communicated "to the Indian government on behalf of the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush that the United States is going to meet in full all the commitments it made to India in both the July 2005 and March 2006 joint statements."
Burns said, "We are now very optimistic that the Congress having taken this action, and the Indian government having decided that it wishes to go forward, that we now have cleared the major hurdles and we hope very much that India will now go on to negotiate an IAEA safeguards agreement."
Burns pledged, "We are going to redouble our efforts to move quickly on the civil nuclear 123 agreement and we look forward to full agreement on the Nuclear Suppliers Group. I have, since my return from India, been working with members of the NSG to convince them that it is time to agree by consensus that international practice should be changed in the Nuclear Suppliers Group to respect what the US Congress has done."