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India "responsible" with nuclear programme: Burns
March 07, 2006 03:59 IST
Dismissing any parallel between Indian and Iranian atomic programmes, senior official Nicholas Burns on Monday said that with the signing of a historic civil nuclear deal with the United States, New Delhi was moving towards obligations with International Atomic Energy Agency.
But during an address to the Heritage Foundation in Washington, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs who played a key role in clinching the agreement signed during President George W Bush's India visit, also warned that it might take "several weeks or even months" before Congress approved it.
Rejecting some critics' argument as to what message the US was sending to Iran by signing a nuclear energy deal with India, Burns said, "We don't see the connection between what Iran is doing and what India seeks to do."
While Tehran is trying to extricate itself from the obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency, India is moving towards it, he said, adding, "India is the responsible one, Iran is the irresponsible one."
He also rejected the argument that the deal somehow enhanced India's weapons programme. "India has a strategic programme…" that existed even before this deal was worked out, he said adding the "future intentions are to build up the civilian sector for electricity."
Bush Administration's "selling" of the agreement on Capitol Hill is taking place this week, the first round with lawmakers scheduled for Monday, Burns said. The first phase was to "listen" to lawmakers on how they want to go about the whole thing.
Members of Congress want to see the details," he said adding the whole process may take several weeks or even months of dicussions with lawmakers.
Describing the agreement as a "major, major gain for the non-proliferation regime," Burns said "there have been lots of discussions over the phone," referring to parleys that have taken place from India at the time of Bush's visit and the conclusion of negotiations on the nuclear energy deal.
Lawmakers may also want to hear from India, he said, while adding, "we cannot anticipate what the Congress will do." The administration's work is to convince lawmakers, he said.
Observing that the civil nuclear deal with India was very complicated and highly complex, Burns said the more important aspect of the agreement was what would take place in the future -- that all civilian reactors being built by India would come under international safeguards.
In his opening remarks, Burns said the US was very proud of the civilian nuclear energy agreement as it was "good for India and for America" and that it brings India into the non-proliferation stream.
He pointed out that India had made a number of commitments like bringing 14 out of 22 reactors into international safeguards, which was about 66 per cent, and promised that all future civilian thermal and breeder reactors would come into international inspections fold.
There was the concept of perpetuity, he said, adding India had landmark export control regulations when it came to weapons of mass destruction.
Burns pointed out that for a civil trade with India on nuclear energy, the Bush administration would need a consensus within the Nuclear Suppliers Group besides Congressional approval.
Washington is encouraged by the first reactions from the NSG, he said, noting that it has broad support even if it is not universal.
However, Burns said the United States will not and has not recognised the nuclear weapon status of India but at the same time "space" has been made for New Delhi in the international non-proliferation regime.
Speaking of the process of negotiations leading up to the civil nuclear agreeement, Burns said it started last April and went on till last Thursday in New Delhi; and that it was difficult for both India and the United States.
Burns also spoke generally of the relations between India and the US, with the interests of the two countries intersecting in a number of ways.
"India is a major power in Asia... one of our critical partners, not just in South Asia but in Asia," Burns said making the point that expanding strategic relationship with India was good for American global interests.Over and beyond what has been achieved in the bilateral relations the senior official spoke of the "remarkable degree of coordination in global issues," such as on democracy building and in the fight against HIV/AIDS.