New Delhi: A top US official said a controversial nuclear pact with New Delhi could not be renegotiated amid demands from Indian critics for a reworking the deal.
“We cannot renegotiate it because the agreement is done. Neither government wishes it to be renegotiated because it is now complete,” US Under Secretary Nicholas Burns told Outlook magazine in an interview published over the weekend.
The agreement will allow New Delhi to buy atomic fuel, technology and plants even though it is not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but critics say it would limit India’s strategic options.
The agreement, reached on July after nearly two years of negotiations,has drawn heavy criticism from both the opposition parties and the government’s left allies.
Burns declined to comment on criticism by the communists, whose support is crucial to the survival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition government in parliament.
“So, I don’t have any particular message for them except to say that in the 21st century we have seen the global balance of forces shifting,” said Burns, the chief US negotiator of the deal.
“That it is in the common interest of India and the US to be partners, certainly on the effort to bring peace and stability in South and East Asia.”
The Indian government came under mounting criticism after a US State Department spokesman said this week that the accord had provisions allowing Washington to terminate the agreement if India tested atomic weapons.
Singh and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee have said that the negotiation will not hinder the country’s nuclear testing options.
The communists say the agreement would also lead to US interference in India’s foreign policy.
But Burns dismissed the suggestion.
“No one is trying to challenge India’s sovereignty as a country to make its own decisions,” Burns said.
Tensions between the government and its allies mounted last week after Singh told the Communists the deal would not be renegotiated and dared them to withdraw support for the ruling Congress coalition.
The deal also requires the approval of the US Congress before it becomes operational.