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Nick Burns' exit no setback: US

US envoy David Mulford feels that the departure of the US Under Secretary of State should not be seen as a 'step back', reports Amit Baruah.

india Updated: Jan 29, 2008 11:28 IST
Amit Baruah

“We are not pushing. We are waiting for (results from) the Indian (political) process,” US Ambassador to India David Mulford said on Monday. Stressing that the US respected India’s political process, Mulford stated that the US had kept away from media comments on the civil nuclear deal for the past five-six months.

Time, however, was of the essence to conclude the Indo-US nuclear deal, Mulford maintained. In a new US administration, the issue would be re-opened, the Ambassador pointed out, repeating approvingly External Affairs Minister Paranab Mukherjee’s comments that the deal was India’s passport to the world.

Mulford told a press conference that it was India, which had elected not to sign similar civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the US. Other countries, too, had taken the position that they could not move forward with actual cooperation on the ground without India concluding a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and a waiver from the NSG.

“(The) NSG does not wish to be involved till the IAEA safeguards are concluded,” he stated, adding that there were different views in the NSG. Mulford said he didn’t know how long the NSG process would take.

Rejecting the notion that the US was disappointed at the slow progress in pushing ahead with the nuclear deal, the Ambassador said it was US President George Bush who had suggested that an exception be made for India in the civil nuclear field.

Mulford told reporters that the civil nuclear issue was an extremely sensitive one for Americans, including for a variety of specialists. The change in US law for India, in the form of the Hyde Act, had happened for the first time in history.

According to him, the bipartisan consensus with which the Hyde Act was passed augured well for the future, but stressed that extraneous factors could come into play if the deal was to be taken to its logical conclusion by future Indian and American governments.

Given the multifaceted nature of Indo-US relations, “nobody could seriously think” that a “single development of any kind” would impact ties between the two countries.

In response to a question, Mulford felt that the departure of US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns from the State Department should not be seen as a “step back” as far as the nuke deal was concerned. “I don’t see how that makes a difference…”

On the ongoing discussions regarding a military logistics support agreement, the Ambassador said there were certain “sensitivities” associated with it. These, he felt, were “perceptional” and didn’t put India under US influence.

Mulford also said that the US had succeeded to a large extent in de-hyphenating its relationship with India and Pakistan. Both relationships the US had with India and Pakistan were free-standing ones, with visions of their own.