Hong Kong: A landmark nuclear energy deal between the United States and India is in jeopardy because New Delhi wants key clauses rewritten, a senior US official told the Financial Times daily on 19 april.
US State Department officials say India’s tough stance is threatening to unravel the agreement, which gives the South Asian state unprecedented access to nuclear fuel without having to sign a non-proliferation treaty.
The business daily, citing the officials, said New Delhi is insisting president George W. Bush’s administration rewrite key elements of the law approved by Congress last year. “We are disappointed with the pace and seriousness of the civil nuclear negotiations with India,” Nicholas Burns, the US under secretary of state said.
“It is time to accelerate our efforts to achieve a final deal,” he added. According to people close to the talks, Indian negotiators are contesting a clause which states that the US would withdraw civil nuclear fuel supplies and equipment if India breached its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, the business daily said.
The India-US civilian nuclear energy deal is the centrepiece of India’s new relationship with Washington after decades of Cold War tensions and is part of the energy import-dependent nation’s bid to increase its fuel sources to sustain its booming economy.
According to the report, India is insisting it, given the explicit right to reprocess nuclear fuel in contradiction of the US law. Officials from India’s Department of Atomic Energy insist that the country, which is termed “a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology” under the July 2006 deal, must retain the right to test nuclear weapons.
The report said officials in Washington are surprised at India’s stance. “That the US government would go to such lengths to help India out and that India is now in the position of aggrieved party in the talks is extraordinary,” Michael Krepon, a public policy expert in Washington said.
“If, as a result, this deal stalls, the next US administration and the one after that will be very reluctant to extend such help to India.”