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US confident of NSG support for India N-deal

Washington hopes to win the agreement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) including China and get the deal going in six months.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2006 11:14 IST

With the law on the India-US civil nuclear accord in place, Washington hopes to win the agreement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) including China and get the deal going in six months.

"The major hurdle was the agreement between India and the United States, number one, and the votes in the Congress," Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told reporters on Monday shortly before President George Bush signed the India bill into law.

In the next few months the two countries have to conclude the 123 civil nuclear agreement, essentially codifying their negotiations of the last 18 months. India will also have to negotiate an IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards agreement. And then hopefully the NSG will follow the lead given by US and lift their restrictions on India as well, he said.

"If we're in fifth gear and move real fast at the beginning of 2007, I would hope we could do all that in six months. And this will represent a major sea change in the way the world works, in India's acceptance in the world," Burns said.

"It also, I think, in many ways speaks to the emergence of India as a global power, and the acceptance of India by the United States and the other powers in the world," he added.

Burns said he was confident about NSG arriving at a consensus on the issue with Russia, Germany, Britain, France, and Japan and Australia having all publicly announced their support.

"I was in China three weeks ago, talked to the Chinese. I do not believe the Chinese will block this. I think they will agree to consensus," he said; but there are some countries — Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, the Nordics — that have had some questions.

"But we're hopeful that they will join consensus. And I think they will. I think all eyes were on the United States," he said.

Burns would not agree that US intended the deal to be a counterweight to the relationship with China.

"We have some issues that separate us (from China), but in general the direction is good there. And we don't have a policy that would build up a relationship with India to contain China. But it's also true that our strategic interests in South and East Asia dictate good relations with the major powers," he said.

Asked if the Iranian provision in the India law was binding or non-binding, Burns said, "Well, I believe that one is a non-binding provision. It's a sense of the Congress, and it's appropriate that it should be a sense of the Congress, we thought."

Describing the India deal as "a unique deal for a unique state", Burns said US has no plans whatsoever to provide this kind of legislation for any other country, including Pakistan.

But Washington had kept Pakistan - "our most important partner" in countering Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in that part of the world — informed all the way through as "we didn't want them to be surprised", Burns said.

President Bush had himself described the civil nuclear accord with India to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan when he visited Islamabad last March.

"There are some Pakistanis who are not happy about it — not President Musharraf, but people beneath him. But I think the Pakistanis know that this is something very important that will build a new strategic relationship with India. So it's in our national interest," Burns said.

The choice before Washington was continued isolation of India, which gets you nothing, or bringing India into the international system with all the benefits strategic, and energy, and environmental, and proliferation, he said.

Citing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, Burns said it would actually stem proliferation in the future, because India has not sold its nuclear technology anywhere. It hasn't sold it outside India; it certainly hasn't let it go on the black market, as some countries have. And so it's a positive example of a country that's been abiding by the civil commitments.

Asked why India does not sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Burns pointed out that India is not permitted to sign it as when the NPT was agreed to it said there should only be five nuclear weapons powers in the world.

"India came along three or four years later, in the mid-1970s, as you remember, it conducted a nuclear test. It's not possible for India to join the NPT as a nuclear weapons state. And so this agreement does not speak of nuclear weapons, but it does allow them, and allow us to have civil nuclear cooperation," he added.