|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
US-India relations at a whole new level: Rocca
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | December 09, 2005 14:41 IST
Terming Indo-United States ties as being on a 'new level', US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca said the landmark nuclear agreement between the two countries was 'well in train', brushing aside the notion that Washington is 'moving goal posts' and bringing new conditions for implementing it.
"We have begun the conversation on civilian nuclear cooperation. There will be meetings coming up this month and next month, where we'll start talking a little more concretely about how the plan might look like, how we move forward," she said in an exclusive interview to PTI, when asked about the July 18 agreement, which is yet to be approved by the US Congress.
"We are very busy with conversation on Capitol Hill, with the thinktanks, with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, with international partners and friends," Rocca said, while noting that there are a 'lot of questions' in US Congress.
"I am optimistic as to where we are going," she said, hoping that legislation will come about in early 2006.
The agreement was signed in Washington on July 18 between India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush, under which the US implicitly recognised India as a nuclear weapons state and agreed to supply fuel for its Tarapur reactor, following a series of commitments by New Delhi, including that of separating civilian and military facilities.
Rocca said the July 18 meeting was, in many ways, the culmination of 'four years of hard work together to take the
She added, "A lot of things are now givens. Our political conversations are so drastically different from four years ago. It was a pretty ambitious agenda that we set on July 18 and we've already started working on a number of things."
Rocca disagreed with the argument that Washington and New Delhi had moved 'backwards', in that, they first came to a general agreement on the nuclear deal and, then, sought to work on details and flush out the political dynamics.
"I don't agree with that perspective. What we agreed on is a mutual goal that we will work towards. If you look at the language it's very clear, it's a very big change in US policy. This is a big step forward. Had we done it the other way around, it would not have worked. There is no doubt about it," she said.
Rocca emphasised that 'working out a deal like this means a lot of work on both sides and there is no argument there. The dialogue (with US Congress) has begun. The various elements that needs to be done, certainly on our side are moving along.'
She also brushed aside the notion that the Bush administration has resorted to moving goal posts in the aftermath of the accord on the civilian nuclear deal or that it is asking New Delhi to do something 'more'.
"No. That is absolutely not true. The language is carefully drafted. I would absolutely say that no goal posts were moved on both sides We are not asking anything of India that we are not asking ourselves, that we are not willing to do. There are people who are opposed to it who would like to frame it that way. I think they are wrong," Rocca countered.
She also disagreed with a school of thought that Bush should consider postponing his India visit, now tentatively scheduled for early 2006, if the civilian nuclear deal has not concretised.
"I could not disagree more," Rocca said. "There are so many things going on in the US-India relationship on so many different fronts that are very good. We are really happy he's going. This is a relationship that has momentum and the time to go is exactly now. The relationship is not about this one nuclear issue," she said.
Asked if the Bush White House and the administration had the 'political capital' on Capitol Hill to push this civilian nuclear agreement with India, Rocca expressed optimism that members of Congress 'will see this in US interest, in India's interest and also in the interests of the non-proliferation regime as a whole'.
Noting that the bilateral relationship has a lot of supporters, she said, "The US-India relationship is a loss for nobody. Everybody understands it."
"This particular aspect (the civilian nuclear agreement) has some controversy. We want to make sure we're right. We believe it would be a net gain for the world non-proliferation regime. It is a question of convincing people of that and making our arguments; and I think we'll be able to do it," she remarked.
Rocca stressed that the Iran nuclear issue is very important for both the administration and Congress. "We are very grateful for the Indian vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency.We think we are on the same wavelength with India and we hope we remain on this. It is important to global security as a whole," she said.
Rocca also praised the statesmanship shown by leaders of India and Pakistan and retierated the American position that it is not the business of Washington to put forth the way forward in the settlement of issues between the two countries.
Rocca expressed hope that the two countries will be able to keep up the momentum in the peace process.
"We've said all along that the solution to the problem is not for the US to forward, though it certainly wants to be as encouraging as it can. There is an opportunity here and statesmanship, that is shown on both sides that is greatly appreciated by the U S administration.Our hope is that both countries will be able to keep the momentum that was created," Rocca said.
She stressed that the United States would like to see the South Asian region stable, democratic and peaceful.
"There are enormous challenges, as you can see," she remarked pointing to the goings-on in Nepal and Sri Lanka.
On Nepal, Rocca pointed out the steps that were taken 'backwards' from democracy. 'which we believe fell right into
Complete coverage: PM's US Tour