US wants India to make ‘tough choices’ on n-deal, hasten economic reforms

June 14th, 2008 - 10:48 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 14 (IANS) The US wants India to go for some “tough choices” in making the civil nuclear deal between the two countries a possibility and move faster on the path of economic openness. “President (George) Bush pressed for the civilian nuclear agreement with India against strong opposition because he’s committed to our long-term strategic partnership. Now India needs to make some tough choices,” said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.

Noting that rising demand for energy is “an issue that our countries can’t ignore”, he hoped that India will quickly move forward to fully realise the potential of this historic agreement.

“We believe it’s essential to quickly implement the landmark civilian nuclear agreement and bring India into the international nuclear non-proliferation mainstream,” he said at the India-US Global Partnership Summit, organised by the US-India Business Council.

The US remains committed to being India’s partner in providing clean, sustainable energy. While this includes nuclear power, it also means using other clean energy technologies, he added.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had earlier told the summit that the nuclear deal has not been shelved.

“We are moving toward a political consensus inch by inch. I don’t think it has been put away and I am confident that at some point we are going to arrive at this political consensus within India and that’s the best way to do it,” he said.

Maintaining that “openness” is necessary for economies and people to prosper, Gutierrez suggested that despite a healthy growth rate the pace of reforms in India appears to have “slowed”.

“Since 1991, when then finance minister Manmohan Singh began sweeping reforms, India has enjoyed remarkable growth of about 8.5 percent annually. That’s more than double the growth rate from India’s independence until then.

“The message is clear: the faster India opens, the faster India grows. However, we are concerned that the pace of reform appears to have slowed,” Gutierrez said.

“We believe improvements in market access, easing of investment restrictions, tariffs reductions, and the elimination of barriers in food trade should continue because it is good for India.

“India, like the US, must decide if it will continue the openness that has brought so much prosperity, or risk sliding backward,” he said.

Gutierrez also announced the setting up of the Department of Commerce’s India Business Centre, which will provide American companies business counselling and market intelligence that’s critical to successfully doing business in India.

“The US and India are two great democracies. And we know that our systems require compromise for the greater good. Sometimes our leaders have to make tough choices that are in our long-term national interests,” he said.

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