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Home > News > Report

N-deal 'difficult, unique': Burns

January 20, 2006 23:11 IST

The nuclear agreement between India and the United States is "a very difficult undertaking and it is a unique undertaking," US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said today.

Addressing a joint press conference in New Delhi after two days of talks with foreign secretary Shayam Saran, he said that "there is a complexity and a difficulty to these talks which is inherent in the subject."

Earlier, Saran said the apart from detailed discussions on the separation of civilian and military nuclear reactors by India, the two sides had also discussed President George Bush's upcoming visit in March, the crisis over Iran and the situation in the region.

'Serious issues facing N-deal' 

"A very important part of the discussions, was focused on the forthcoming landmark visit of President Bush and Mrs. Bush to India, which we expect to take place sometime in the first week of March this year. I conveyed to Under Secretary Burns and his delegation that a very warm welcome awaits President Bush and Mrs. Bush to India," he said. "We both attach a great deal of importance to this visit. It would be really another defining moment in Indo-US relations."

As for the nuclear deal, "It would be fair to say that I think we have today a much better understanding of the kind of perspectives that the United States has with regard to various aspects of this proposed agreement, and we have a much clearer perspective as well," he said.

"Under Secretary Burns will be visiting Pakistan, I believe, as well as Sri Lanka. So, this was a good occasion for us to exchange notes particularly since recently we have had the visit of President Rajapaksa to India and, as you know, a couple of days back I myself had a round of discussions with my Pakistani counterpart. So, this was a very opportune moment for us to exchange notes on our relations with these countries," the foreign secretary said.

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On Iran, "We remain very supportive of the initiative taken by the EU-3 to engage Iran in finding an amicable solution to some of the issues which have been raised with regard to the Iranian nuclear programme. We have been extremely supportive of that process. It stands to reason that India - which has, with Iran a very long-standing, close and what we call civilizational relationship with its people – would not like to see a situation of confrontation developing in a region that is very close to India. Therefore, our advice has always been that confrontation should be avoided," he said.

Thanking Saran for the hospitality shown to him and his delegation, Burns said that "we believe that the character and the quality of US-India relations have been transformed by the last several years, particularly through the leadership of the Prime Minister and our President. They have identified a strategic partnership on a global basis between India and the United States that is qualitatively different than any relation that our two countries have had going back to the founding and the independence of India in 1947."

Iran's comparison of N-programme with India outrageous: US

After expressing concern over the situation in Nepal and Sri Lanka, Burns said that "We had a very good discussion on Iran. You all know the position of my Government. We believe that Iran is a threat to peace, both in its own region and globally. Iran has overstepped the bounds of international law in seeking to use its facility at Natanz for centrifuge research and enrichment."

On the question "of our future agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, we remain hopeful that we will be able to achieve this agreement. It is a very difficult undertaking and it is a unique undertaking," he said.

"I am not sure any two Governments have actually had a negotiation quite like this because the situation is unique, India's position is unique, and there is a complexity and a difficulty to these talks which is inherent in the subject. And yet we worked very well together for two days here. We listened to each other. I believe the American delegation learned a lot from what we heard from the Indian Government about its own perspective. Both Foreign Secretary Saran and I have committed to each other that we will continue these talks hopefully towards an agreement in the not too distant future," he said.

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"What is unique and difficult, of course, is that this kind of thing has not been done before. India is a unique country and its position on this particular issue and this industry is unique obviously. So, President Bush has taken the position that this is in the interest of the United States, it is in the interest of the other countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group."

However, "We will have to see if we can be successful. I hope we can because it is very important that this agreement be realized. It is an agreement made between the President and the Prime Minister. It would have enormous benefits for India."  

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This "would really allow India to engage in international trade, in technology, in research and development with other countries who have scientific institutions in a way that has not been possible for thirty years. It would allow the nonproliferation community internationally, the regime that has been established internationally, to have the benefit of India meeting the same standards and practices in the civil sphere (as) the rest of us have been meeting for a long time," he said.  

"So, we are negotiating on that basis. We have to see what happens in the future. We would be working hard. But there are difficulties ahead," he concluded.

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