N-deal on track; US, India determined to go forward

March 12th, 2009 - 9:55 am ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 12 (IANS) The landmark India-US civil nuclear deal is on track with both sides determined to go forward with an initiative that has raised their relationship to a new level.

“I was really reassured by the determination to go through it,” Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said at a press conference here Wednesday after three days of an intense dialogue with the new Obama administration.

Refuting suggestions that the nuclear deal was not as high a priority for President Barack Obama as it was for his predecessor George W. Bush, he said: “The civil nuclear initiative was a bipartisan effort passed by a Democratic Congress during a Republican administration. That’s the strength of it.”

The finalisation of the deal had raised the India-US relationship to a new level of cooperation from economy to energy, Menon said. “I think there is determination to go forward on both sides.”

Menon, who discussed the nuclear deal with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his counterpart Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns, said the deal was making “steady progress.

Noting that deal had already been signed, he said now it’s a question of operationalisation and bringing it down to the commercial level. For that India had already signed an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency and was domestically taking steps to sign the civil nuclear liability convention.

To suggestions that non-operatioanlisation of the deal in the absence of the convention was putting American firms at a disadvantage, Menon said India was in the midst of the legal process to sign the international convention that lays down the standard.

Noting that the convention would begin to operate when reactors come into place, he said international standards should be enough assurance for companies intending to sell nuclear technology to India.

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