US upbeat on India nuke deal despite 'differences'
"There are a number of complications but we will reach this agreement," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.india Updated: Jan 19, 2006 14:52 IST
The United States is confident of reaching a deal with India on nuclear cooperation even though differences remain over plans to separate India's civil and military programmes, a top US official said on Wednesday.
"This is very challenging, and what we have embarked up on is an absolutely unique venture in international diplomacy," US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told a news conference in Mumbai.
"There are a number of differences, a number of complications but I have confidence that we will reach this agreement."
At a landmark summit on July 18, US President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a deal that would give India access to nuclear technology, including fuel and reactors.
The agreement, which must be approved by the US Congress, commits India to place nuclear facilities associated with its civilian energy programme under international inspection.
Burns will meet India's foreign ministry officials and atomic energy experts in New Delhi on Thursday in an attempt to push forward negotiations.
Central to the agreement is a plan specifying how India will split its plants and personnel between its civilian and military programmes.
"If you look at the July 18 joint statement, it does talk about separation between civilian and military nuclear facilities and that is an enormously complex task, and that is at the heart of these negotiations," Burns said.
"These are serious issues and they have got to be addressed seriously and we hope very much for a successful conclusion."
For three decades, Washington led the fight to deny India access to nuclear technology because New Delhi rejected the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and developed nuclear weapons in a race with rival Pakistan.
But Bush, aiming to build an alliance with the world's largest democracy, reversed that approach.
Non-proliferation experts and some US lawmakers have criticised Bush's decision, saying the move could end up letting New Delhi free up its own nuclear fuel stocks for more weapons.
New Delhi is likely to reject any deal that limits its ability to produce fissile material unless it is part of a global treaty capping production.
Bush is expected to visit India, probably in early March, but it is far from certain a deal will be finalised by then.