US firms will compete for India nuclear trade: Rice

October 4th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 4 (IANS) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is confident that American companies will compete for their share of the nuclear business once the India-US civil nuclear deal is operationalised.”We have a letter of intent from the Indians that we believe is a very firm set of commitments and a framework for making sure that our businesses can do business in India,” Rice told reporters Friday on way to New Delhi following Congressional approval of the deal.

“So I’m satisfied about the details of all of this. This really is about administrative matters, not about the substance of it,” Rice said when asked if the US would want New Delhi to sign a convention on accident damage liability before US businesses could take advantage of the deal.

Asked if her message in India would be “Buy American”, the top US diplomat said: “You know, it’s not. I’m confident that the American companies will compete - we’re free traders. And we believe that American companies will compete.”

“Now, what we have done, I think, is to demonstrate that the United States was willing to take a strategic step that has made it possible for India to enter a new realm in terms of its ability to cooperate and to be integrated into what is a global industry that is bigger than just nuclear reactors.

“Nuclear technology and technological cooperation… there are a lot of associated industries. And so I think the Indians recognise that the United States took that strategic step and helped India get through the Nuclear Suppliers group (NSG) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and so forth,” she said.

“But ultimately, what American companies are really asking is an opportunity to demonstrate their capability and what they can do. And that’s what we expect that they will do,” Rice said.

Asked about possible defence contracts, she said: “No, we are actually in discussions with the Indians about military sales. That’s in another channel and it’ll continue as well.”

In response to another question whether the nuclear deal will smoothen military sales, Rice said: “No. Look, what the civil nuclear deal does is that it removes, for India, a barrier to full integration on a whole range of technologies.

“But more importantly, I think it is symbolic of a relationship with India that’s now at a very, very different level. And at that different level, one would expect that economic relations, defence relations, a whole range of relationships, including business relationships, will flourish.

“But they’ll flourish on their own terms. But, yes, the framework for US-India relations is significantly different than it was when President (George) Bush and Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh took this on in 2005.”

Asked if military sales would figure in her talks in New Delhi, Rice said the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who visited Washington three weeks back, “will continue to have those discussions” with his counterpart Bob Gates.

“Obviously, the State Department is party to them because we do the political-military side. But those are broad discussions that are going on between the defence ministries,” she added.

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