State's Burns Sees Progress on U.S.-India Nuclear Accord in 2006
25 October 2005
Under secretary, in New Delhi, says both sides still have obligations to fill
Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns is optimistic that the United States and India will be in a position in early 2006 to take the next step in the agreement signed by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July, opening up civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries.
“[T]he agreement that we launched together on July 18th is very specific. It has obligations that the United States has committed to undertake, and for the Indian side, obligations that India has to make this agreement work. Both of us have started to fulfill the obligations,” Burns told Headlines Today’s Chetan Sharma during an October 21 interview in New Delhi.
According to the agreement, India must take steps to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities, and the Bush administration must seek legislative revisions from the U.S. Congress to permit U.S. companies to work with India in civil nuclear energy programs.
Burns said he believes both countries will make enough progress in the coming months that Bush and Singh will be able to move ahead with the agreement when Bush visits New Delhi in early 2006.
Burns underscored the importance of this agreement for both countries. “For 30 years now we have not had civil nuclear energy cooperation. In fact, sanctions have been placed on India and it's very important that we return to a situation of normalcy,” he told New Delhi television in an October 21 interview.
Following are the transcripts of the under secretary’s interviews with New Delhi television and Headlines Today:
UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS R. NICHOLAS BURNS
BY SHIVRAJ PRASAD OF NEW DELHI TELEVISION (NDTV)
New Delhi, India
October 21, 2005
QUESTION: Under Secretary of State, thank you very much for speaking to NDTV. Of course you are here to look at a timetable to implement the civilian nuclear deal with India. Are you sure that it is running on schedule?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think it is. You know it is a very complex arrangement between the United States and India, and quite historic. For 30 years now we have not had civil nuclear energy cooperation. In fact, sanctions have been placed on India and it's very important that we return to a situation of normalcy. Prime Minister Singh and President Bush have committed themselves to this. There are obligations that both sides have made to each other. We are in the process of doing that.
I had an excellent conversation with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran today. I think we are heading in the right direction. It may take us a few more months to get there. It is going to be worth it. We'll do this the right way. We'll meet the obligations to each other. We'll have a better arrangement between our two countries.
QUESTION: But there has been a lot of debate within India. And also have you been reassured by the fact that India might just stick with its position on Iran vis-à-vis the IAEA resolution, because there has been debate? Coalition partners are saying they want the Indian government to maybe change their position by the next meeting on the 24th of November.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, first of all, I am certainly assured that the Indian government will be as committed to the civil nuclear energy deal with the United States. On the question of Iran -- I think Iran is isolated in the world today. When India voted with Asian countries, African countries, Latin American countries, with us, it was voting with the majority of countries around the world. Iran has very little support and it's because Iran for 17 years -- according to the International Atomic Energy Agency -- did not tell the truth about its nuclear research. Most countries in the world assume Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Nobody thinks that would be a positive step forward. Everyone is concerned about it. And so, I think there is a wider grouping of countries now that are coming together to try to convince Iran to come back to the negotiations that Iran left unilaterally and abruptly in August. And India is part of that large group of countries recommending that. So, I don't find that surprising. I would think that the democratic countries would react to a situation where India (inaudible).
QUESTION: But aren't you worried that the Left Parties, which is a very major constituent of the present coalition government, may just pressurize New Delhi to take a re-look at its position on that resolution?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think what you will see over the next month or two is a concerted attempt to try to convince the Iranians to deal peacefully and constructively with this problem. No one wants to see unnecessary confrontation on this issue. We all want to see the problem worked out. But Iran has to be reasonable. Its President went to the United Nations in September and banged his fist on the table and said, "Iran has rights. Here are our rights." But we all have rights. We also have obligations. And Iran has obligations. No one in the world wants to see Iran enrich uranium or reprocess uranium. No one wants to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon. What is the answer to this problem? It is for like-minded nations around the world to say to the Iranians: "there is a different way forward and you ought to choose that path and you ought to be more reasonable." I can't speak for the Indian Government. But I can certainly speak for my own government. I think there is a growing concern in the world about Iran, a growing sense that all of us need to use our influence to get Iran back to the negotiating table.
QUESTION: But interestingly enough, isn't that a consideration in the Congress right now? There is all that debate on whether they should back changing domestic laws. That, in fact, there is this internal pull and push in India to maybe go softer on its stand on Iran given our own strategic ties with Tehran?
Under Secretary Burns: I will tell you I think the Iranians were disappointed by the vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency because only Venezuela voted with them. Russia did not vote with them. China did not. South Africa did not. India is a very big country. So India will decide what's in its best interests. Only India gets to decide that. We think the application of diplomatic pressure against Iran is beginning to have an effect. We think the Iranians are reconsidering their options. They have to be a little bit more reasonable. They are so isolated in the world. They are so harsh and uncompromising, this new government. There is a new government, new people, they are relatively inexperienced in government. They tend to have a very conservative view of the world. And we would hope that they would learn over time that countries can't always do exactly what they want. Countries have to cooperate with other countries, they have to listen, they have to compromise. We need to see more of that in Iran in the future.
QUESTION: So, are you confident that Congress will, within the timetable, actually pass or back the deal and maybe help you change domestic laws so you can get on with civil nuclear cooperation with India?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We are very hopeful that will happen. That is the intention of President Bush. He thinks we are at a historic turning point with India. We are developing a strategic partnership in political and foreign policy, in business and trade, investment; and now we need to make that same leap forward in the civil nuclear energy field. And I hope very much that Congress will, once India and the United States have fulfilled their obligations to each other, Congress will act to change our legislation and make it permissible to have this historic opening in nuclear energy.
QUESTION: New Delhi now seems to also be making it contingent on that vote by Congress on its own obligations. There has been that statement by the Prime Minister that, in fact, once those restrictions are lifted, then only India would look at that clause that they separate their civilian from their military nuclear facilities and then go ahead with the whole process.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We know it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation right now, the sequencing of who does what first. I think we can work this out. We're diplomats after all, we're paid to devise creative solutions to tactical issues like this. I'm not very worried about it. I think that we've made sufficient progress so far and it would give us a lot of confidence as we head into 2006. And we'll find a way forward that's consistent with the aims and interests of the U.S. Congress as well as of the Indian government.
QUESTION: What about the international considerations? There has been the NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, meeting that was deferred. There was disagreement there, bitter disagreement, and you had made it a campaigning point. Are you confident that you will be able to also meet those obligations, surmount them, when you finally go ahead with the deal?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We think the meeting went well. The majority of countries there were very positive. There was maybe some disagreement; there were more countries in the middle. Some of them wanted to know more about the Indian developments and about the plans to separate the military and civilian nuclear facilities. So, I think when that information comes out, when India has had a chance to give countries a sense of their plan of how this transition is going to work and how India can meet its commitments, I'm confident there will be support from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. There already is strong support from a number of the European countries, from Russia and China, and that's very positive to start with that strong base.
QUESTION: But for the Indian public, of course, which is why I'm pressing home the same question over and over again, is, of course, deliverables. I mean when and how soon are you confident that this will actually take place.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, we hope it'll take place as soon as possible. I think it won't be until early 2006 -- there's just not time enough in 2005. But we have confidence. This agreement is a very good agreement, for both countries. It's very sound. It was negotiated -- I had the great pleasure of negotiating with Foreign Secretary Saran, who is an outstanding individual, and we're convinced that this is the future for the United States and India, to engage in this type of cooperation, to overcome some of the barriers that we erected against each other in the past.
What intrigues me about the U.S.-India relationship is how much it's changed. You know during the Cold War, the United States was the ultimate aligned country, India was the ultimate non-aligned country. But in the 21st century, we're seeing this great lapse of those old artificial barriers that separated the two of us in past decades, and we're seeing how much we have in common. We've got burgeoning...you have a burgeoning information technology sector here in India, in Hyderabad, in Bangalore; you have major influence in science and technology, in space launching, in agriculture. These are all areas where we can work together, the United States and India. So, I'm confident we've got the basis of a really historic opening in this relationship and we're two great countries, we believe essentially in the same things about how the world should be: it should be democratic, it should be peaceful. And we want to work together in the future.
QUESTION: And lastly, would you like a greater say in how India also lives up to its obligations because there has been a lot of debate on India's own obligations vis-à-vis the (inaudible) MTCR, also the NSG, and would you like to maybe even see more, have a greater say in which facilities are safeguarded or not?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: You know, I don't think it's appropriate for the United States to assert or somehow have a say -- should have a say in how India does it. India is a very proud, sovereign country, it can decide things on its own. We have agreements that we make, but we have great faith and trust in India and we have no interest in trying to intervene in issues where we should not be intervening on.
QUESTION: So, lastly, are you confident that by maybe early next year you will have a deal that will be announced, that will actually be implementable?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We hope to have a deal. We hope to have a deal that will cement this cooperation. I think that there is every reason to believe we will be able to pull it off through good, hard negotiating. We've got a good partner in the Indian government. There's a lot of trust between the two governments and a growing knowledge about each other, friendships forming on both sides of this relationship. You know, we have a better relationship now, India and the United States, then any time since 1947. And we're confident that this will be a good, productive relationship in the future.
QUESTION: Right, Under Secretary Burns, thank you very much for speaking to NDTV.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I enjoyed it very much.
UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS R. NICHOLAS BURNS
BY CHETAN SHARMA OF HEADLINES TODAY
New Delhi, India
October 21, 2005
QUESTION: Indo-U.S. ties couldn't have got better. In fact, we are now awaiting one of those historical moves. More so after the July nuclear pact. The question, then, is what's the road ahead from here? Perhaps we should be asking Nicholas Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State, who is right here with us and, of course, he is the one point person as far as America is concerned and its relations with India. Your visit -- welcome first of all to Headlines Today and to India.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure be with you.
QUESTION: Your schedule this time, of course, is very tight, but what's really on the agenda?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, what's on the agenda is to take the agreement that Prime Minister Singh and President Bush had in July and make it work, implement it. This is a vast agreement. We have decided that India and the United States together undertake cooperative ventures in agriculture, education, in science and technology, space launch. We have agreed to put an Indian into space with American space shuttle astronauts. We have got cooperation on trade and economic issues and, of course, we have a civil nuclear agreement, which is historic -- a landmark agreement that will completely change the way that our two countries are working together. So, we are on the verge of great and truly historic partnership. We are the two largest democracies in the world, and two of the countries that we believe will be critical to a future of peace in the world. So it's a very exciting time.
QUESTION: Sir, you have also gone on record to say that the President Bush, of course, once he comes here -- that's in the early winter 2006 -- you are very confident that both the countries will be able to meet their commitments and, of course, take the process forward. Its very reassuring but what makes you so sure?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, the agreement that we launched together on July 18th is very specific. It has obligations that the United States has committed to undertake, and for the Indian side, obligations that India has to make this agreement work. Both of us have started to fulfill the obligations. The United States is now consulting with our Congress about a change in our legislation which may be few months away. But we are consulting, and I think the soundings are good.
The United States also is trying to convince the rest of the world to do the same thing that we are doing -- to engage in civil nuclear energy cooperation. Just this week at the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna we lead a discussion in favor of cooperation with India. And I know that the Indian government is working very hard: they passed an export control law, on weapons of mass destruction. They are now working on how India will separate its civil and military nuclear facilities. It is a very complex issue. So I think both of us are marching along. I had an excellent day today with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and his delegation. We think we made progress, but there is more to do. It is a complex and difficult issue, but we should be successful.
QUESTION: You think this is going to go through the Congress?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: It has got to go through the Congress in our system. Yes.
QUESTION: What happens in case if it can't? And, of course, we have got a one-stage President Bush making a commitment? Where lies the solution to that problem?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I wouldn't want to predict. I wouldn't want to anticipate somehow it not being a success. But we will have a success. Most members of Congress understand the strategic importance of India. They understand that we have to be working with India in a new way. But they also want to see the results of the agreement that we have signed. They want to see India making the commitments that were made, as well as my country -- we made our own commitments. We are few months away. This is such a complex issue and elaborate undertaking. It will take a little while to implement this deal. We should talk about early 2006.
QUESTION: Sure, but there is also a question mark over whether President Bush has the legislative authority really to sell nuclear reactors to India?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: You know, I think that Indians understand that the United States has a very different form of government. President Bush does not sit in our Congress. He is not a Prime Minister. He doesn't lead his party in the Congress. He is the President. He is in a separate branch of government. In our system the President directs and executes our foreign policy. And he doesn't pass the laws. That job is Congress'. And we are going to ask Congress to change an American law. Between the 1970s and the present time it has not been possible for American companies to work with India in civil nuclear energy because of the sanctions that were put in place by prior U.S. Governments. President Bush is going to ask our Congress to overturn that, and ask our Congress to enact new legislation that will make all this possible. That's the job of the Congress. Therefore, the Congress is a very important part of this process. The concerns of Congress have to be met.
QUESTION: There are concerns as far as India is concerned, as well, and you would, of course, presumably realize that the separation of the civilian and military facilities is not a one-shot affair. It's going to be happening in a phased manner. It's going to take some time. Do you still have a timetable of about 2006 - so you feel that it will happen?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, I think our test would be: can India agree on a plan to separate it's military and civilian nuclear facilities? Can that plan be credible and transparent? And can that plan be at the beginning of its implementation phase? That should be possible in five or six months time. That timetable should be possible. It's not guaranteed though, but I hope it would happen. And we very much remain committed to this agreement. We think it’s in our best interests. And it is in India's best interest as well.
QUESTION: Now, of course, if we talk about India's best interests, I guess it is important. But America says, Nicholas Burns says, that America is sensitive to India's needs. India needs energy. India is trying to source it from Iran. America doesn't want that to happen. Is that appropriate?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, first, there is no question that India, just as my country, or any country, needs energy. And it makes sense for India to develop its nuclear energy, civil nuclear energy program, because that's clean energy. You have to develop that energy. That energy will give India clean energy to help fight global climate change, global warming. I am not aware that India and Iran have actually agreed to any deal. There has been a lot of talk about it, but there's been no consummation of the deal. I wouldn't be a very good diplomat if I came to Delhi and started criticizing deals that haven't been made yet. So I'll leave it up to the Government of India to decide what it wants to do, and the United States might have a reaction to that. But I am not going to react to something that hasn't happened yet.
QUESTION: You would play along if the deal happens? It wouldn't be a problem?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: You know I think it's not wise or appropriate to answer hypothetical questions. It hasn't happened. The fact is that India has a lot of different energy needs, and it can be met in a variety of ways, and Iran is not the only source of energy in the world. But I am not going to try to criticize the Indian government for something that may or may not be in the planning stage and certainly not implementing.
QUESTION: Of course, coming to events like, currently, the earthquake, a huge tragedy, which shook both India and Pakistan, with thousands of lives being lost. Indian troops went across into Pakistan to help their neighbors. We had a lot of terrorist camps being destroyed, even after that we have had a spate of killings. How do you, how does America view this as far as India-Pak relations are concerned? We thought it was going to be a step forward. Perhaps now it could be a step back.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, first let me say how sorry we are about the earthquake and extend our condolences on a personal basis from the Americans to the Indians. The fact that Indians lost more than 2,200 of its citizens in Jammu and Kashmir, the fact that Pakistan has lost so many thousands more -- it is really one of the great modern tragedies, and one of the most significant and horrible earthquakes in history. We've tried, in our small way, to be helpful to both Pakistan and India. We've got American military helicopters trying to bring assistance to people in Pakistan. We just now spent an additional $500,000 in assistance to Indian nongovernmental organizations and the American ones trying to bring help to the survivors of the earthquake.
We also hope that out of this tragedy might come up something good, and we hope that relations between India and Pakistan continue to improve. They have been improving. It's obviously, on a humanitarian and moral basis, it is obviously a very decent thing for India and the Indian Army to help Pakistan in its hour of need. And India and Pakistan are two great countries, and they'll have to work out their own problems. You don't need countries like the United States coming here to be a mediator. That is not who we are, that is not the role we are trying to play. But our best wishes go to both countries as they try for the future to have a better relationship.
QUESTION: For some reason you are assuring that America's relations vis-à-vis India and Pakistan have been completely de-hyphenated.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think they have. It is a long...it is time that we did this. For so many decades American governments in the past have carefully measured what they did with India vis-à-vis Pakistan. In the modern world, the 21st century, we can't hold back the U.S.-India relationship. We need to have a normal relationship with Pakistan, as well.
India, I think, will become one of the most important partners to the United States in the future because we have so much in common. We are both democratic countries, we are both great countries with long histories. You have a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious population, and so do we. In fact, our two countries are the personification of globalized societies, and we both want to fight terrorists, and we both want to promote democracy, we both want to find peace. And your country has a great role to play on the global stage.
QUESTION: And yet having said that, we don't find a place as a permanent seat in the UN Security Council?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Oh, you know I think that...I will tell you what Condoleezza Rice said, our Secretary of State, when she was here in Delhi. She said that India is such a rising power, that it is playing a greater and greater role in some of the multilateral institutions like the United Nations. And those institutions need to begin to adjust to the growing role of India. I think that is where the future is headed for. And we look forward to working on a closer basis with India in the UN, as well as in other organizations. It is in both of our interests.
QUESTION: Look forward to it as well. Thank you, sir.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Pleasure. Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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