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Indo-US meet: Trade, economic ties to hold key

July 15, 2011 10:16 IST

The composition of the US delegation led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to next week's India-US Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi points to the wide-ranging scope of talks between the two countries.

Among the senior American officials who will be part of the delegation for the second round of the Strategic Dialogue will be Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper Jr.

Cooperation on counter-terrorism was already scheduled to be a crucial part of the dialogue; Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Mumbai will provide an added impetus to the talks.

India and the US had launched a homeland security dialogue during the visit of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to India in May. Jane Holl Lute, a deputy secretary in that department, will be in the US delegation to carry that interaction forward during the Strategic Dialogue.

The Department of Energy (DoE) will send Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman. The DoE is the issuing authority for the contentious Part 810 authorisation that US suppliers are required to obtain before they can supply nuclear technology to India under the civilian nuclear agreement.

The Indian government needs to provide certain assurances before the secretary of energy can issue the Part 810 clearance.

According to the DoE, it requires assurances from India that the nuclear material or technology being acquired will only be used for peaceful and non-explosive purposes, that it will not be transferred to a third-party country without US consent, and that it will be protected in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency's physical protection standards.

In addition, in India's case, the Hyde Act requires the DoE to provide detailed reporting on technology transfers and re-transfers to all Indian end-users.

The US government must also grant consent before the technology may be transferred from one Indian

user to another.

However, there seems to have been little progress on this issue in the past year. Asked about the status of Part 810 applications from US companies, Department of Energy Spokesman Joshua McConaha said, "We are working with the applicants and the Government of India to ensure the secretary of energy can authorise their respective proposed activities in accordance with established regulations and law."

He said the department would not comment on current applications.

Nearly a year ago, last August, another DoE spokesman had given a very similar response to a question on the status of the applications at that time: "The department of energy is working closely with the various applicants, the department of state, and other interested US agencies to ensure that requests for specific authorisation to transfer technology to India meets the requirements of Part 810 as well as the provisions of the Hyde Act."

When the issue of the assurances first came up in 2009, the Indian government reportedly viewed these as an obstacle to nuclear trade between the two countries.

The US is also looking forward specifically to India's ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC). US experts had described India's nuclear liability law, passed last year, as inconsistent with the CSC and cautioned that it would make it tough for US companies to enter the Indian market.

Also part of the delegation is the head of the US Federal Aviation Administration. Indian officials in Washington expect the dialogue to produce initiatives in the fields of civil aviation and cyber security.

Several officials including the chairman of the US Export Import Bank will be part of the delegation.

The country's lead negotiator on climate talks, Todd Stern, will also travel to New Delhi, as will senior state department officials including Blake, and a senior Indian American in the Obama administration, Aneesh Chopra, who is the US chief technology officer.

Indira Kannan