The new Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing technology will not in any way detract from the existing United States-India nuclear cooperation and the Obama administration fully supported the so-called clean NSG exception for India, according to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake.
With less than three weeks to go before the second round of the India-United States Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi, Mr. Blake, in a web briefing with select media, also denied that the U.S. had any concerns about losing out to potential rivals Russia and France in the bid to supply civilian nuclear products to India.
‘Opportunities for U.S. companies’
Responding to a question from The Hindu on this subject Mr. Blake said, “We think there are really quite important opportunities for American companies still,” pointing out that two reactor parks had been set aside for U.S. corporations in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The U.S. was also looking forward, he said, to India ratifying the Convention on Supplementary Compensation.
Above and beyond that there were also some further technical aspects to address, such as the Part 810 non-proliferation assurances that India is required to supply to the U.S. Department of Energy. “As far as we know, those remain on track and again, that these will be a subject of discussion when the Secretary [of State Hillary Clinton] visits,” the Assistant Secretary noted.
Clinton to visit Chennai
Meanwhile, the State Department announced on Friday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be visiting Chennai during her trip to India. This would mark the first visit by a serving U.S. Secretary of State to the city, said State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, noting that Chennai had "emerged as a hub for the trade, investment, and people-to-people engagement that is driving the U.S.-India relationship.”
According to sources, Ms. Clinton is expected to visit the Ford factory in Chennai and also hold a town hall meeting in the city.
‘Reduce limits on FDI’
Mr. Blake also responded to a query from The Hindu on areas of the Indian economy where the U.S. hoped to get more market access for U.S. companies.
“Our countries are hoping that the Indian Parliament and the Indian government will take actions to reduce some of the limits on foreign direct investment in areas such as retail that will provide huge new opportunities for our companies and help India to increase the level of foreign investment... and jobs in India and also lower the prices of food [which] is of increasing concern to Indian consumers.”
Sources here had earlier indicated that a key announcement on liberalising the multi-brand retail sector towards more foreign investment was likely during the Strategic Dialogue.
Troop withdrawals from Afghan
Speaking to a query on what assurances the U.S. could give India about the safety of its personnel and assets in Afghanistan, Mr. Blake said that there may be a misunderstanding about the planned level of U.S. troop withdrawals, which were “relatively modest.”
Noting that the U.S. would closely consult with India on this process going forward, he added, “I expect that this will be a very important part of our strategic dialogue consultations.”
Mr. Blake also reiterated the U.S.’ “tremendous respect and admiration” for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s pledge to raise the total amount of assistance to Afghanistan to $2 billion.