The US on Thursday underlined its commitment to full civilian nuclear cooperation with India as the two countries look to expand their counter-terror cooperation and discuss ways to stabilise the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan region at their second strategic dialogue here next week.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton touches down here July 18 on a three-day visit that also includes a trip to Chennai, the hub of top-billing American investments.
Clinton will hold the second India-US strategic dialogue with external affairs minister SM Krishna in New Delhi on Tuesday that will encompass a broad spectrum of issues ranging from counter-terrorism and security to civil nuclear cooperation, defence and closer cooperation in science and technology.
She will also meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
On the table will be the fate of the landmark India-US nuclear deal that has become a shade complicated following the Nuclear Suppliers Group's new guidelines adopted at its meeting in the Netherlands last month. The new norms effectively ban the export of enrichment and reprocessing technologies (ENR) to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“We want to implement all agreements which include 123 (bilateral civil nuclear pact) and waiver (granted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in September 2008). No doubt nuclear issue will be discussed,” US Charge d’Affaires A. Peter Bulreigh told reporters here ahead of Clinton's visit.
“As far as the US is concerned, it will fully implement agreements made and move forward…and American companies will have contracts like other countries,” he said.
Clinton is likely to reassure India that the new guidelines will not impact the clean waiver granted by the 46-nation nuclear cartel to India in September 2008 that reopened the doors for global nuclear commerce for New Delhi after a hiatus of 34 years.
Clinton is also expected to share Washington's outreach efforts to help India become a member of the top four multilateral nuclear export regimes, including the NSG, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
The US diplomat stressed that the US has removed most of Indian entities from the export control list and assured that the existing barriers in the way of high-tech trade will come down soon.
Counter-terror cooperation will be high on the agenda, an issue that has acquired added piquancy following July 13 Mumbai serial blasts that killed 17 people and injured over 130.
US Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and Deputy Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security Jane Holl Lute will be among those accompanying Clinton to India. They will be discussing issues relating to intelligence-sharing and deepening of counter-terror cooperation.
Terming the Mumbai serial blasts as "despicable", Clinton has made it clear that she would go ahead with her visit to New Delhi for the strategic dialogue and said it is more important than ever to stand with India in the struggle against terrorism.
Issues relating to the stability of Afghanistan-Pakistan region will also figure prominently in the talks.
Clinton is expected to brief India about Washington's negotiations with a section of the Taliban.
"Afghanistan will be an important issue for discussions between the US and India. We have been keeping the Indian government informed about preliminary discussions with a section of the Taliban leadership," said Burleigh while lauding New Delhi's role in the reconstruction of the violence-ravaged country.
India has made it clear that it is ready to accept a peace deal in which only those Taliban who sever links with the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine, renounce violence and accept the Afghan constitution should be accommodated in a future dispensation.
Burleigh added that the US relations with Pakistan and the progress in India-Pakistan peace process will also figure in the discussions.