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N-deal: Burns visits India on Dec 6

The US Senator will meet Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and other officials to discuss regional issues.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2006 20:28 IST

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs R Nicholas Burns, the key US negotiator for the civil nuclear deal with India, will visit New Delhi from December 6-9 to address India's concerns over the enabling legislation with a Senate-House conference expected to hammer out a final bill next week.

Burns will meet with Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and other senior officials to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including the US-India civil nuclear cooperation initiative, according to a state department press notice.

Burns has had extensive discussions over telephone with India's chief negotiator Shyam Saran after the US Senate cleared the enabling bill with an 85-12 vote last month over New Delhi's concerns about the language and other provisions in the legislation.

In New Delhi, he is expected to take up with Saran how to take forward their negotiations over a so-called "123 Agreement" - a term for a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact with a foreign country under the conditions outlined in Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act.

The senior US official who travels to India after taking part in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial in Brussels will also discuss defence cooperation, and trade and investment relations as part of the US-India Strategic Dialogue.

Washington has time and again declared that it considers successful implementation of the India-US nuclear deal as a key element of a new strategic partnership between them.

"We look forward to working with India to fully implement this agreement, to fulfilling the commitments made by President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July of 2005 and March of 2006," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared after the Senate vote.

Both Rice and Burns have expressed the hope that the Senate-House Conference would address the remaining issues of concern to New Delhi and Washington, with the latter promising to "do our best" to see if their sensitivities can be dealt with at the conference.

New Delhi has expressed concern about some provisions in the Senate bill and unpalatable references to Iran in the House version with Singh conveying his hope to Bush that the bill in its final form will accommodate India's stated concerns.

Section 106 of the Senate bill for one prohibits the export of any equipment, materials or technology related to the enrichment of uranium, the reprocessing of spent fuel, or the production of heavy water.

Another provision, Section 107 requires an end-use monitoring programme to be carried out with respect to US exports and re-exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology sold or leased to India.

Burns is hopeful that the administration would be able to address these and other concerns as it works with the Senate and House conferees charged with drafting a common bill for the full Congress to approve and send to the White House.

"We are talking to lawmakers and we hope the conference will iron out any remaining issues," Burns said, suggesting that there could be "subtle revisions" in some of the language.

The US would also help India present its case before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), he said adding, "I have great confidence that the NSG will agree by consensus to provide the same relief to India (that the US will)."

First Published: Dec 03, 2006 20:28 IST