Washington: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Indian business leaders on Wednesday (28 June) a landmark US-Indian nuclear energy deal needed “more hard work” but was expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The deal, signed in 2005, would allow sales of US nuclear equipment and fuel to India. The pact would end a three-decade ban on such trade with New Delhi, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has tested nuclear weapons.
“We’re not quite there yet, but with will and determination and more hard work to do, I assume that we will reach final agreement and be in a position to complete this deal by the end of the year,” Rice said in a speech to the US-India Business Council in Washington.
The pact was approved by the US Congress last December but has become snagged over what India says are new conditions imposed by American lawmakers.
The contested terms include a US threat to end nuclear cooperation if New Delhi conducts another nuclear test and prohibitions on India’s reprocessing of spent fuel.
US officials say some of those conditions are required by American laws. India sees that as a shifting of goal posts and is wary of any compromise in the face of fierce opposition at home from political parties and nuclear experts.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after meeting President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the G8 in Germany earlier this month that he expected tough negotiations before the deal was finalized.
Several rounds of talks this year, most recently this month in New Delhi, failed to break the logjam.
Rice described the civilian nuclear pact as a pillar of a bilateral relationship that has overcome Cold War estrangement but “just scratched the surface” in areas where the world’s two biggest democracies could cooperate.
“I cannot tell you how much the world is watching to see if we can complete this, because if we can, we are on our way to a tremendous future, not just in this area but in many other areas as well,” she said.
Rice said the pact enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States and concluding it required that both Washington and New Delhi “stay faithful to the agreements that our leaders signed” and “stay faithful to the legislation we have passed.”