India and the US are likely to announce an agreement that will move the long-stalled civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
It will be a “small contract”, between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Westinghouse, but one that will break the logjam that has frustrated the US.
“We’re hopeful that is something that can be announced in the near future,” said Nisha Desai Biswal, at her confirmation hearing for the post of assistant secretary of state.
“And that will pave the way for additional work in the months ahead,” she added. An announcement is possible during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit later this month.
A first generation Indian American, Biswal will become the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia, replacing Robert Blake, who is moving to Indonesia as the US ambassador.
Biswal, who is currently with USAID, said the Indian nuclear liability law was the reason for the “very slow and halting progress” on the landmark agreement signed in 2008.
When asked about concerns here about India’s current economic troubles, by senator John McCain, who hastened to add he didn’t share those concerns, Biswal said the fundamentals of the Indian economy were sound.
On Afghanistan, Biswal said: “There is understandable anxiety in India and across the region about what this transition (US exit) will bring, but we are in a very close dialogue with the Indians.”
“I actually think that there is somewhat of a convergence of interest here in that neither India nor Pakistan wants to see an insecure and unstable Afghanistan.”