U.S not for renegotiating deal: Burns

Diplomatic Correspondent

If the deal is opened up, it can never be reassembled again, says Burns

Deal preceded by a year of negotiations on "really tough issues" Eventually, 80 to 90 per cent of India's nuclear system will be under safeguardsIf U.S. Congress, NSG okay deal, India will expand its civilian nuclear power sector

NEW DELHI: The United States Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns has taken a clear position that the Bush administration is not in favour of renegotiating the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal, given the dangers inherent in such an exercise.

"We've said to members of [the U.S.] Congress we do not wish to renegotiate this deal because if you try to open it up and renegotiate it, you probably won't be able to put it together again. But we have said to members, if you can get us ideas that do not require us to renegotiate the deal, but that might strengthen it by asking the United States to certify certain things that may happen in the future, that would be welcome," a transcript of remarks made by Mr. Burns on March 16 said.

Pointing out that the agreement was a complex one, the Under Secretary stressed: "To reopen it [the civilian nuclear deal], we're probably at risk of never being able to achieve it again and to reassemble it."

The March 2 civilian nuclear understanding between India and the U.S. must make it through Congress for Washington to lift nuclear cooperation sanctions on India. Also, the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), too, must agree to dismantle curbs against New Delhi.

Calling the accord the "123 Agreement," Mr. Burns said the understanding was preceded by a year of negotiations on "really tough issues."

"The bilateral agreement is largely a technical agreement that will not entail a tremendous amount of give and take between the two Governments because we've resolved the issues. They will simply be reflected in the [final] bilateral agreement. So we gave the Indian Government a draft copy of the text two days ago. And I think that agreement should proceed expeditiously. It would surprise me if it took much time at all and what we've assured members of Congress is we're happy to share the text with them," he stated.

Separation plan

He said the "bigger conceptual agreement" was the separation plan provided by India after negotiations with the U.S.

Mr. Burns claimed the Indian side told the Americans that, eventually, 80 to 90 per cent of the country's "nuclear system" would be under international safeguards since New Delhi proposed to go for a major expansion in its nuclear power generating capacity.

"Our assessment is that if Congress changes the legislation, approves this deal, if the NSG does so as well, India is going to embark on a massive expansion of its civil[ian] nuclear power sector and that the great majority of Indian investment in the nuclear industry will fall on the civilian side," he said.

"So, as they [the Indians] add 1,000-megawatt power plants, which we believe they will in the near future, they will come under safeguards. And therefore, the percentage of increase, whether it's the number of reactors or mega wattage under safeguards, is going to increase over time," he added.