Diplomatic Correspondent

"More work needs to be done before it can be implemented"

We need to discuss this in greater detail in the coming days: SaranForeign Secretary was upbeat after second round of talks with Mr. Burns

NEW DELHI: There's a shift in the mood as far as the civil nuclear deal between India and the United States is concerned. This is evident from on-the-record remarks made after the second meeting of the India-U.S. joint working group on civil nuclear cooperation in Washington last month and the just-concluded third meeting in New Delhi.

The key message from the remarks made by Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns on Friday was simple: that more work needs to be done before the July 18, 2005 nuclear deal can be implemented.

"I think we have come to the conclusion that we need to discuss this in greater detail in the coming days and weeks and this particular dialogue between us will be continued," Mr. Saran told presspersons.

On December 22, the Foreign Secretary, after the second round of his discussions with Mr. Burns in Washington, was upbeat in his assessment of where the civil nuclear deal was headed.

He said at the time: "... We came to the conclusion that in fact we should be in a position to make a significant advance on this initiative before the visit of President [George W.] Bush to India ... "

"Both the United States of America, as well as India are conscious of the time line in respect of the implementation of this agreement and we have exchanged ideas on the implementation of the July 18th agreement. We have... made significant progress in this regard, and we hope that we will be able to have a successful outcome of our deliberation, sooner rather than later," he added.

On Friday, Mr. Burns pointed to the difficulties that lay ahead in implementing the deal: "We will have to see if we can be successful. I hope we can because it is very important that this agreement be realised ... it would allow the non-proliferation community internationally, the regime that has been established internationally, to have the benefit of India meeting the same standards and practices in the civil sphere (as) the rest of us have been meeting for a long time. So, we are negotiating on that basis. We have to see what happens in the future. We would be working hard. But there are difficulties ahead."

The U.S. Under Secretary had a different take on the issue when he came for the first meeting of the joint working group to New Delhi.

On October 21, 2005, he said: " ... We look forward in the early part of 2006 to our Congress passing legislation in the United States that would allow our government and our private sector to begin, on a national basis, this [nuclear] cooperation with India as well."

On the same day, standing along with Mr. Burns, the Indian Foreign Secretary said: "So we believe that it will be possible for us, as Nick [Nicholas Burns] said, by the time the President comes on his visit to India, we hope that we will have, in fact, a very good agreement between our two sides, an implementable agreement between our two sides on this very important question."