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US willing to send Burns to India for N-deal
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | February 17, 2006 14:18 IST
As differences persisted on the India-US nuclear deal, Washington has said it is willing to send its pointsman Nicholas Burns to New Delhi next week if it could help in concluding negotiations on a separation plan of India's civilian and nuclear facilities. "We are trying to do something unique that we have not done before," US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia designate Richard Boucher said Thursday while replying to questions at his Congressional hearing on the India-US nuclear deal.
Amidst reports in India that the US was shifting the goalpost on the deal reached on July 18 between President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington, he said Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nihcolas Burns is willing to visit New Delhi if it could help resolve the issue.
During his visit to New Delhi early in March Bush is expected to review the progress made on implementation of the deal which is yet to be approved by the US Congress.
Reports that US wants India to put its fast breeder reactor programme under International Atomic Energy Association safeguards has triggered a political storm in India, raising question over the future of the deal.
"We have embarked upon building a global strategic partnership with India. President Bush will be travelling to India in the coming weeks to continue a strong, forward looking relationship with this rising global power," Boucher said in prepared remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing.
Boucher, the former State Department Spokesman and a career foreign service officer, stressed that upon confirmation he will work closely with other agencies and organisations "to bring to fruition" the initiatives Bush and Singh have undertaken. "The wide ranging nature of these projects clearly illustrates the kind of encompassing relationship we hope to develop with India. Opening new areas of economic cooperation and concluding a civilian nuclear partnership are two of the most important areas at this moment," he said.
"Beyond that we need to look at all the areas where our international interests intersect with those of India and where we can advance our interests by partnering with India in this region and beyond. Some areas that spring to mind are agriculture, democracy building, disaster relief, education and science and technology," he added.
The emergence of India on the world stage is one of the most "obvious manifestations" of the fact that the expanding populations and rising economies of South and Central Asia are beginning to shift the balance of power, Boucher told the Senate Committee.
He maintained that as the US was beginning the new strategic engagement with India, it would also continue the long friendship with Pakistan and that a "stable and friendly relationship between these keystone nations" is essential for South and Central Asia.
"We are encouraged by the most recent round of the composite dialogue held less than a month ago in New Delhi.Confidence building measures such as the opening of bus and rail links are helping to create a constituency for peace in both nations. We will continue to encourage peace efforts between the two countries including a resolution on the question of Kashmir," Boucher remarked.