India bound only by 123 agreement, not Hyde Act: Ronen Sen

March 13th, 2008 - 11:36 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Ashley J. Tellis
By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 13 (IANS) India has made it clear that while it remains committed to the bilateral 123 agreement with the US to implement their civil nuclear deal, it wants a clear exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) rules. The contentious Hyde Act, the US enabling law, “is not our concern. We are bound by 123 only,” India’s ambassador to the US Ronen Sen said here Wednesday, describing the nuclear deal as “still a work in progress”.

While he was no expert on what the US law says, the US administration had obviously come to the conclusion that the 123 agreement worked out after long negotiations was in conformity with the Hyde Act, he said.

Being democracies, both countries have to go through their processes. A couple of subsequent steps - an India specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and an exemption from its rules governing nuclear trade - also needed to be taken before the deal could be implemented.

He did not know what view the NSG that controls global nuclear trade would take of the India-US nuclear deal, but New Delhi wanted a clear exemption.

“We hope these steps will be completed as soon as possible so that this agreement can be completed,” said Sen in a talk on “US-India Relations” at the George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs.

Referring to the ongoing debate in both countries whether the nuclear deal was in their interest, the ambassador said: “No agreement on any issue can be long lasting unless it’s perceived to be of mutual benefit. As democracies we have to take the deal in and through our own democratic processes.”

While proliferation was once seen as a problem separating India and the US, now it was something that united the two, said Sen, reminding his audience that India was the first country to propose a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, propose a nuclear test ban and the first Asian country to set up its own nuclear reactor.

While the India-US nuclear deal remained to be implemented, it was of “truly historic importance in substance and symbolism” as it took the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP)” initiated in January 2004 by President George W. Bush and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee forward in a dramatic way.

India-US relations had since grown at an unprecedented pace in all areas, the ambassador said, as it was a “relationship based on shared values, common concerns and intersecting interests”, taking a long-term strategic view of mutual concerns and mutual benefits.

Defence cooperation, joint exercises and the like were growing in size and range and hopefully collaboration between the two countries would go beyond mere buying and selling to technical transfer and co-production, Sen said.

While there had been a sharp increase in trade, it was far below potential. Trade and investment were two-way streets, he said, noting that US exports to India had grown at a faster pace than those of India to US. India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in US was $4.2 billion, comparable to $6.2 billion from US to India.

Noting that the two countries had a shared long-term interest in promoting democracy and fighting international terrorism, Sen said: “Time has come to build a strong partnership between India and the United States.”

Ashley J. Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International peace, who was closely involved in negotiating the India-US civil nuclear deal and now advises presumptive Republican nominee John McCain on foreign policy, offered four policy propositions for the new administration.

First, growth of Indian power is good for the US as it brings home the benefits of democracy beyond all doubts. While it’s not about containment of China, at least in the short term, India also matters in the context of how to deal with a large and important country like China.

Second, US and India have common enemies as seen in the rise of radical movements leading to the radical Islamic terrorism, he said, suggesting opposition to this kind of violence should be indivisible if not as a policy at least at the level of principle.

Third, US and India benefit mutually by tighter bonds between the two countries, said Tellis, proposing that they take their economic integration and interdependence to the next level as it not only helps Indian industry, but also American competitiveness.

Fourth, a robust India-US partnership is good for the world, he said, as it helps to strengthen global nuclear non-proliferation. Continuing the process started by Bush, the US should not only help open the door to nuclear technology for India but also make it part of the global system.

India should be made a full member of the NSG and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Tellis said, and suggested that the US support India’s candidature for permanent membership of UN Security Council to make it a full partner in global governance.

Setting out the Democratic campaign’s position, Karl F. Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state for South Asia, broadly agreed with Tellis and suggested a “PC Plus” (policy continuation) agenda.

Proposing continuation of the new India policy initiated by former president Bill Clinton and carried forward by Bush, he asked the new administration to avoid what he called “the three D’s” of US nuclear policy - dominance, discrimination and double standards.

Asking the US to follow the abolitionist legacy of former president Ronald Reagan and prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Inderfurth said Washington should take the lead and rededicate itself to the global non-proliferation agenda. He also supported India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

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