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US industry lobby pushes nuke deal with India

The USIBC chief said that India was committed to developing its civilian N-programme to meet its burgeoning energy needs "with or without the US.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 23:10 IST

Any failure on the part of the US administration to speedily implement its civil nuclear agreement with India would represent an "unfortunate missed opportunity", the head of a leading US industry lobby group said on Thursday.

Ron Somers, president of the US-India Business Council (USIBC), pointed out that India was committed to developing its civiliannuclear programmeto meet its burgeoning energy needs "with or without the US".

"Our aspiration and hope is that we can do that together. To not collaborate would be an unfortunate missed opportunity," Somers told a news conference at the Defexpo 2006 arms fair organised by the Indian Government.

Somers is leading a large defence delegation representing 22 US companies, including majors like Raytheon and Honeywell. He emphasised that the team aimed to deepen defence cooperation and commercial ties ahead of US President George Bush's visit to India next month.

Responding to a question on whether India could turn to other countries like France and Russia if it was refused nuclear technology by the US, he said:
"We think that India is going to need to pursue energy security, which is a real issue."

"And it is going to develop its indigenous capability (to generate nuclear power) with or without the US. That is the reality," he said, noting that nuclear power would be economic in the long run and help cut emissions.

India and the US signed a historic civil nuclear cooperation pact July 18, 2005, but the implementation of the agreement has been delayed by prolonged discussions on changes to laws that have to be made by Washington and the separation of India's civil and nuclear facilities.

USIBC, which represents close to 180 companies that have investments in India, has been spearheading efforts to lobby the US Congress to push through the civil nuclear pact. It recently hired the law firm Patton Boggs to lobby for the deal.

Referring to the current status of discussions on the agreement, Somers said: "I am happy to report that at all the meetings on Capitol Hill, there has been universal support for deepening the strategic partnership with India.

"Of course, there are questions about nuclear proliferation and these are being addressed, and we have positive comments from the US embassy and those in the Indian government dealing with the issue."

He said the "challenges were in the details".

But with the "convergence in economics and alignment in politics", Somers said USIBC's "hope and goal" was civil nuclear cooperation between India and the US.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 14:19 IST