Rejecting that it had covered up documents on stoppage of fuel supplies if India conducts a nuclear test, the US has said New Delhi's obligations are very clear as it had agreed to a moratorium on nuclear testing.
"Certainly, India's obligations under the 123 agreement are very clear and the Indians have agreed to a moratorium on testing. And we expect they will adhere to that commitment," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.
A 26-page document released by Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, contains an assertion by the Bush Administration that its assurances of nuclear supplies to India are not meant to "insulate" it against the consequences of a nuclear test.
"The Indians understand what our views are with regard to nuclear testing. We've made them clear. And they understand those. There was no attempt to cover up anything," Wood said brushing off suggestion that Washington kept the document under wraps to protect the government in India.
"... People have that interpretation, but that certainly was not the position of the US government. We weren't trying to keep anything under wraps. We've had discussions with various members of Congress about this agreement. We'll continue to do so.
"We've stressed over and over again the importance of this agreement, not only to the United States and India, but to our overall nonproliferation efforts around the world," the official said.
The 'disclosures' set off a flurry of political activity in India with the BJP and the Left demanding resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even as the UPA government rejected charges that New Delhi will lose the sovereign right to conduct an atomic test.
The whole episode comes at a time when the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group is meeting in Vienna to consider a waiver for India to enable it to do nuclear commerce.
Pressed on this and asked if the answers were kept under wraps to make it easier for India to get the agreement approved, Wood merely replied, "With all respect, I think I've said about as much as I can say on the subject at this point".
"... I don't want to get into all of the discussions that are ongoing about the agreement. Obviously, a number of countries have concerns about the agreement. And they've expressed those concerns. We have tried to give answers. The Indians have, as well.
"I don't think it serves the interests of any of us to talk about negotiations that are ongoing, except to say this agreement is important. We think it contributes greatly to the global nonproliferation efforts," the State department official said.
"And we're going to continue to work with India and the other parties concerned with this agreement. And we hope the NSG will give an exception for India to its full-scope safeguards rule," he added.
"... I don't want to speculate on things, but if that agreement is approved by the NSG, then I believe it has to go to India's parliament, it has to approve it, and we'll obviously -- we'll go from there," he said.
When asked if Washington would cut off supplies if India conducts a nuclear test, the senior State Department official replied, "You're asking me to speculate on something, and I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to tell you exactly what our policy is."