WASHINGTON: There has been some backsliding on the landmark US-India nuclear agreement and both sides must compromise in order to close the gaps, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said on 23 May.
Burns said he would call Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon in the next two days to plan a date for a trip to New Delhi, which was postponed, but is now expected “in the next week or two.”
“It’s going to require a little bit more hard work and some compromise on the part of the United States and the Indian governments to complete the deal, but I’m confident we can do that,” Burns said.
The much-heralded agreement would give India access to US nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in 30 years, even though New Delhi tested nuclear weapons and never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Burns acknowledged completing the deal has been tougher than anticipated.
But he stressed: “This agreement is too important for both of the governments and the private sectors of both countries for us to allow any temporary disagreements or backsliding in progress to be cemented.”
“Both sides need to compromise in order to reach a final agreement. Both of us are responsible for this agreement. I believe the Indian government has the best of will and the best of intentions. It’s an enormously complex agreement,” he added.
Burns predicted a “major effort” in the next several weeks to bring the deal to a conclusion.
US and Indian technical experts made little progress when they met in London this week in another attempt to work through persistent differences.
On May 1, the two countries claimed extensive progress during two days of talks in Washington aimed at salvaging their landmark deal.
But they soon ran into new snags, Burns postponed his New Delhi trip, and technical experts were sent to London for talks this week.
The deal is the touchstone of a new US-India relationship that Washington envisions as a pillar of 21st century international security, but its history has been rocky.
Although little is known about specific disagreements at this time, in general, key obstacles have included a US congressional mandate that Washington halt nuclear cooperation if India tests a nuclear weapon as it did in 1998.
Other disputed points have been US refusal to give India prior approval to allow reprocessing of spent fuel with US components and to assure permanent fuel supplies.