U.S. Pledges Major Effort To Complete India Nuclear Agreement

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns has pledged a major U.S. diplomatic effort to complete negotiations to implement a civil nuclear power agreement with India.

“This is the right agreement for us and we need to make a final push to cement it,” Burns said in a May 23 speech in Washington on U.S.-India relations.

On December 18, 2006, President Bush signed a law expanding civil nuclear cooperation with India that lifted long-standing restrictions against U.S. companies on supplying nuclear fuel or investing in Indian nuclear power. (See related article.)

While India has agreed to open its civilian nuclear facilities to international monitors, Indian officials have been meeting in London with U.S. diplomats to clarify a series of technical questions about the agreement. These include the nature of inspections and a measure that could allow Washington to halt cooperation if India chooses to test another nuclear weapon.

India’s concerns about the agreement, Burns said, reflect the close scrutiny it has received in its parliament, which was no less than the pact received before it was approved by the U.S. Congress. It took nearly 10 months of meetings with members of the House and Senate to secure their approval, Burns said.

The long process of finalizing the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, Burns said, showcased both the countries’ shared democratic values and the converging strategic interests that form the foundation of the relationship. (See related article.) 

While U.S. officials were hoping for the conclusion of talks before the 2007 G8 Summit, which will be held in Germany June 4-6, Burns expressed optimism that the final details could be resolved within weeks.

“Like all good things, this will take time and more compromise from both countries,” Burns said, who added that he plans to meet with Indian officials in New Delhi in a few weeks.

Burns said there was a need for a “psychological adjustment” from the era when India developed its nuclear program in isolation to today, when the United States and India increasingly are realizing the benefits of global integration in their expanding commercial, academic and cultural ties.

The agreement, when implemented, will lay the groundwork for similar agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, ending isolation for India’s nuclear program, he said. 

By serving as the “symbolic centerpiece” of a new relationship with India, the agreement also will help expand U.S. commercial relations and scientific cooperation while delivering the economic and environmental benefits of civil nuclear power.  

“It’s taken longer than we thought, but I believe we’ll get there,” Burns said. 

The full text of Burns' remarks as prepared for delivery is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information, see U.S.-India: Strengthening a Global Partnership.