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'US Govt trying to ensure no changes to N-deal'

Boucher says the shared goal was to carry out the agreement as Bush and Manmohan put it together.
None | By Press Trust of India, Washington
UPDATED ON JUL 28, 2006 04:21 AM IST

The State Department has said the Bush administration was trying to ensure that there were no changes to the civilian nuclear energy agreement reached between India and the United States.

"The government of India has been concerned about the same things that the Bush administration has been in trying to legislatively get through the United States-India civilian nuclear cooperation agreement; and the bottom line is the implementation of the agreement that both sides signed on to and ensure that there is nothing to distort the arrangements that have been reached," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher told reporters.

He said the administration shared India's "concerns that whatever legislation there is in the United States to implement, the agreement that we both signed upto that did not require or force us into some kind of re-negotiations and did not distort the arrangements we reached."

Referring to India's apprehensions with the Senate's version of the bill, he said there were some provisions in that bill that "raise concerns".

He said that, however, "on that account and we are at various places, making our views known."

"How exactly the Senate will handle those itself, how these provisions will fare when it goes to conference with the House we will have to see. We have to try to find ways to consistently make clear the legislation that is enacted enables cooperation with India and doesn't distort, change, and try to force renegotiating the deal," he remarked.

Boucher said the State Department was "delighted" along with its Secretary Condoleezza Rice with the passage of the United States and India Nuclear Cooperation Promotion Act of 2006 in the House of Representatives.

"We very much appreciate the House Bill and the House vote. I think it accomplishes the central purpose of the legislation which is to authorise the kind of cooperation we wanted with India and in a manner that does not require changes to the deal or distort the deal," he said.

The senior official stressed the administration was looking forward to "prompt action" in the Senate and with the other pieces of work falling in place the civilian nuclear deal will move from "legislation to reality".

"We are not there yet, but this is a tremendous step (the House vote) to making vision to reality," he said, though adding that the administration had not seen a "final time table" in terms of when that Chamber was going to pass legislation.

He said Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had a telephone conversation with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran to talk about the vote and other issues.

"We have been in close touch with the Indian government and we will be in close touch ... As the legislation proceeds through the Senate and hopefully into the final leg. It is a matter of continuing consultations with India," Boucher maintained.

Asked to comment on the ongoing debate in India and if it would impact the legislative process, Boucher said Washington has always heard "very frankly" from the Indian government about its position.

"We have an ongoing dialogue with them. We are friends. We speak frankly to each other," the top administration official remarked.

He said the shared goal was to carry out the agreement as President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put it together, as they envisaged it and to implement that in a meaningful way that would make a significant contribution to India's clean energy availability for its economic development.

On the time frame with the Nuclear Suppliers Group, he said many members of it wanted to see what was taking place in Congress to the deal and the House vote was a signal that legislation can be expected to move forward swiftly.

There is no final date in mind for the United States and the NSG although there are opportunities to work with the Group this Fall, the senior State Department official said.

Boucher is travelling extensively in the next several days, with trips to Dubai, China, Bangladesh and India besides two stops in Central Asia.

He is expected to discuss the deal in Beijing. The purpose of the China visit, he explained, was to participate in an overall strategic dialogue with Beijing keen on talking about other areas as well.

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