Don’t handicap US firms eyeing $100 bn nuclear pie: Rice

September 8th, 2008 - 12:39 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 7 (IANS) The US has said it would talk to India about not “disadvantaging” American companies eyeing the $100 billion nuclear pie if the US Congress is unable to approve their civil nuclear deal quickly.”Well, I hope we can get it through Congress,” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday when asked if the delay in approving the India deal did not pose a risk of disadvantaging American companies with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) also clearing the way for nuclear trade for the French and the Russians.

“But we have talked to the Indian government about this, and I think they recognise and appreciate American leadership on this issue,” Rice told reporters on way to Algiers Saturday, according to a State Department transcript.

“And because of that, I think we will have ways to talk to them about not disadvantaging American companies,” she said. “But obviously, the best thing would be to get it through the Congress.”

Asked how confident she was that future governments in India would abide by the nuclear agreement as the deal was “tied so much” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rice said: “It has been associated with Prime Minister Singh. But, frankly, I think there is widespread support for this in the business community in India.”

“I think there is widespread support for it in the environmental community, even within some of the opposition I think you find support for this,” she said, noting, “India has a lot at stake in this agreement.”

“And I don’t think that the Indians would have sought this agreement if they did not see that their principal goal now, their principal incentive, is to seek peaceful uses of nuclear materials, to be able to build civil nuclear facilities, and to do that with the best technology from around the world,” Rice said.

“And so, once it is done - and I do want to emphasise we still have to go back to Congress - I think you will see that there is really a basis for a very different kind of relationship for India with the rest of the world on these issues,” she said.

Asked why the administration was pressing for quick passage of the implementing 123 agreement when a similar 123 agreement had been languishing in the US Congress for months, Rice said the two were different as Russia was already a member of the non-proliferation regime.

“I think they’re different, for one very important reason,” Rice said. As Russia is already a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the NSG, that agreement “will eventually improve the prospects for US cooperation with Russia on nuclear issues, nuclear technology”.

“But the India deal is landmark,” she said. “It’s no secret India has been outside the non-proliferation regime for the entire history of its programme. So, in that sense, it is more significant, from the point of view of the historic nature of the agreement,” Rice said.

Describing the India waiver as “an important step forward”, a very “pleased” Rice said: “We got a lot of very good help from the Indian government to make this possible, but also from a number of delegations that worked very closely with us. And I think that it is a really very big step forward for the non-proliferation framework.”

Rice said she had talked to “a lot” of people about NSG waiver. In particular, she mentioned “extensive discussions” with the prime minister and the foreign minister of New Zealand. “I have talked at least to the Irish, the Austrians, the Chinese.”

Asked what brought it together in the end, Rice said: “Well, I don’t want to get into the details of the discussions, the negotiations. But let’s just say that I think everybody took everyone else’s concerns seriously, and we found a way to bridge those concerns.”

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