Dilute N-deal and lose biz: India to tell US

Issue may figure during Hillarys visit


 This is the message India is likely to send out to the United States when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits New Delhi next week, amid speculations triggered by the recent G8 statement that effectively blocked transfer of strategic Enrichment and Reprocessing (ENR) technology from any of the eight members in the group to a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

New Delhi had already got assurances from Washington that the Obama administration was as committed to the nuke deal with India as its predecessor was.

Might seek clarification

But sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said India might seek a formal clarification of the United States’ stand on the issue during the ensuing visit of Clinton.
Clinton’s visit, which is likely to begin next Monday, is the first high-level contact between India and the US after the change of regime in Washington and the United Progressive Alliance government’s return to power in New Delhi.

“I think her visit is going to be an opportunity for us to clear the doubts about the Obama administration’s views on the issue of ENR and other aspects of the nuclear deal with India,” said former Foreign Secretary and Indian ambassador to the United States, Lalit Mansingh.

New Delhi must tell Washington that the dilution of the nuke with India might hit hard the business interests of the nuke companies of the United States itself, he added.
India’s civil nuclear energy sector needs investment worth at least $(US) 100 billion during the next 20 years.

A report by the United States Department of Commerce quoted “private studies” suggesting that if the American vendors win just two civil nuclear reactor contracts in India, they would create 3,000-5,000 new direct jobs and 10,000-15,000 indirect jobs in the recession-hit US.

“I am sure that the United States would not like to see its nuke companies losing business opportunities in India to their French and Russian competitors,” said former Indian ambassador to France T C A Rangachari.

Former American envoy to India Frank Wisner sought to allay the concerns in New Delhi when he told a meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) here that the 123 agreement between Washington and India was now “a law of the land” in the US and the change of guard in the White House was unlikely to have an impact on it.

“What I can tell you is that the new administration is as committed to the India-United States nuclear agreement as its previous one was,” said Wisner.

New Delhi on Monday said the G8 curb on the ENR technology to non-NPT countries was unlikely to affect India, which had secured a clear waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

What gives comfort to New Delhi is that the country already possesses the Enrichment and Reprocessing technology and has been assured by France and Russia that they would let India reprocess the nuclear fuel supplied by them. Paris has also expressed willingness to reprocess the fuel used in the reactors in India in the facilities in France, off course if New Delhi asks for it.

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