Washington: As the UPA government came under Left pressure for putting on hold implementation of Indo-US nuclear deal for six months, the United States on 19 September said it is better to move the accord as soon as possible keeping the political timelines in mind.
“We are seeing a certain political debate and discussion going on in India and discussion for the passage of the legislation in the United States (where) we have to go back to Congress for another round of legislation but after we complete certain number of steps,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher said.
“I don’t think we should be too surprised to see that there is legitimate debate and discussion about this,” he said at a meeting organised at the Capitol Hill by the United States India Business Alliance.
“We also know we have political timetables and it is better to move this as soon as possible,” the senior administration official said.
Describing the accord as “fundamentally good”, Boucher said “it was an agreement that was carefully negotiated to meet all the requirements of US laws”.
The 123 Agreement will have to go through a number of other steps such as India coming to an arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as meeting “the democratic process of both countries,” he noted.
Boucher maintained that the agreement is consistent with US laws, but at the same time, also fits the parameters of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush agreed on.
“It is also, I think, a seminal agreement. It opens the door to other kinds of cooperation, the most obvious is defence where there is a lot of discussions and requests for proposals... But I think across the board we are looking at an increase in expansion of US-India economic and technology relationship and that is a logical follow-up,“ Boucher said.
“The 123 Agreement is completely consistent with US Law that includes the fundamentals like the US Atomic Energy Act and it includes the Hyde Act. We are very attentive to what the Congress tells us,” the senior State Department official remarked.
“The requirements of the law are met; but also the agreement fits the parameters of what the (Indian) Prime Minister and the President agreed. It is full civilian-nuclear cooperation. It does provide for things like processing in separate facilities for which there will be arrangements and procedures worked out, things like that that are very important to the Indian side,” Boucher said.
“We do think that we have met all parameters of the law, what the Congress asked us to do and in a way that also meets the needs of the Indian side expressed at the negotiations.”
Boucher said the US is trying to do its part with the Nuclear Suppliers Group by way of providing answers to questions. “I think both India and the United States have a role in that,” the senior official said.
“We are meeting and working with people in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India is meeting and working with people in the NSG. This week, we have a team in Vienna and India has a team in Vienna,” Boucher said.
“But the timing of all these... and how we are going to bring it to fruition is a little bit unclear,” he added.
The senior official was asked during the interactive session if the 123 Agreement supercedes the Hyde Act.
“We have met all the requirements of the Hyde Act; non-binding things I have to go back and see to what extent they are met. We don’t see anything in the Hyde Act that constrains our relationship, the kind of relationship that we’ve reached,” Boucher said.
“The 123 Agreement is subsequent to the passage of the Hyde Act. We think it’s in full conformity with the Hyde Act. The deal between the United States and India is the 123 Agreement... those are all the operative clauses, all the operative paragraphs. The understandings between the two governments are in that document,” the official added.
Pressed once again on whether the 123 Agreement supercedes the Hyde Act, Boucher replied, “I don’t think it is a meaningful statement, one way or the other”.