US pushes India on n-liability law, talks tough on Pakistan (Evening Lead)

July 19th, 2011 - 8:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Vowing to expand their strategic partnership, India and the US Tuesday agreed to intensify their counter-terror cooperation and to resolve the “remaining issues” to enable full civilian cooperation between them. Washington set a year-end deadline for New Delhi to ratify a global nuclear accidents regime and bring its nuclear liability law in conformity with global standards.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who began a three-day visit to India Monday night, held the second strategic dialogue with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that covered an entire spectrum of bilateral ties and global issues like UN reforms, the East Asia architecture and non-proliferation.

The volatile situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan figured prominently in the discussions that saw the two sides making a renewed call to Pakistan for dismantling “sanctuaries for violent extremist networks” and the US promising to pressure Pakistan “as hard as possible” to bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack to justice.

Describing India as “an emerging regional and global power,” Clinton sought to infuse a fresh momentum in bilateral ties that showed some signs of drift after the landmark visit of President Barack Obama in November last year. “India is a global leader. And the US wholeheartedly supports this development and sees great benefits in our growing partnership,” she said while reiterating Washington’s backing for “a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member”.

Seeking to push economic ties, Clinton urged India to lower investment barriers as the two countries agreed to re-open negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty. Bilateral trade increased by 30 percent in 2010 to $48.7 billion. The growing economic ties will get an added boost from a civil aviation pact the two sides signed Monday.

Clinton, who is visiting India barely a week after triple blasts in Mumbai, opened the over two-and-a-half-hour-long talks with Krishna by expressing “sympathy and outrage over” the July 13 attack in India’s financial hub that killed 20 people and injured over 130.

“We are allies in the fight against violent extremist networks,” Clinton said. Earlier, officials of the two sides inked a pact on enhancing cybersecurity cooperation against the backdrop of terrorists increasingly resorting to hacking.

The two sides spent considerable time ironing out issues relating to implementing the landmark civil nuclear deal they inked in 2008, the lynchpin of the transformed India-US relations. Clinton indicated areas of disagreement when she said that “we need to resolve remaining issues so we can reap the rewards of a robust civil nuclear energy partnership.”

Clinton allayed India’s concerns over the new guidelines of the 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group that ban the transfer enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but made it clear that New Delhi needed to ratify a global treaty on nuclear damages by the year-end and bring its civilian nuclear law to international standards.

“We are looking to India to ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation by the end of this year. The liability regime should fully conform to international conventions,” Clinton said when asked about the new NSG guidelines.

She, however, underlined that the US was committed to expanding full civilian nuclear cooperation with India and came out in support of India’s membership of elite nuclear clubs like the NSG, the Australia Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Missile Technology Control Regime that control the global flow of atomic equipment and fuel.

“We stand by our commitment and want it to be enforceable and actionable in all regards,” she said while stressing that her country stood by the waiver given by the 46-nation NSG to India in September 2008.

India signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage, an international fund to compensate victims in the case of a nuclear accident, in November last year days before Obama’s visit. India is expected to take up the CSC for ratification by its parliament soon.

Clinton also asked India to bring its domestic civilian nuclear liability law in conformity with international standards amid fears expressed by some US companies that the liability law imposes an onerous penalty on foreign suppliers of nuclear reactors in case of accidents.

Setting aside some differences over the Taliban reconciliation plan in Afghanistan, there was a striking unanimity of views with both sides declaring that “success in Afghanistan and regional and global security requires elimination of safe havens and infrastructure for terrorism and violent extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

India, which has been wary of President Obama’s plan for phased withdrawal of 33,000 US troops from Afghanistan by 2012, pressed the US to “factor ground realities” before exiting.

“It is necessary for the US to factor ground realities so that Afghanistan would be in a position to defend itself against Taliban,” Krishna said at a joint press conference with Clinton.

While stating that the US saw Pakistan as a key ally in the fight against terror, Clinton said Pakistan has “a special obligation” to bring the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to justice and stressed that the US can’t tolerate “safe haven for terrorists anywhere.”

“Perpetrators need to be brought to justice. We have urged Pakistan to do so. We continue to press Pakistan as far as possible. There is a limit to the what the US and India do,” Clinton said while welcoming the revived peace process between India and Pakistan.

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