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India seeks movement on Indo-US nuclear deal

May 22, 2009 12:31 IST
India on Friday sought speedy negotiations of reprocessing arrangements as well as liberalisation of the export licensing procedures to move forward the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

Stating that India is committed to move forward on the deal, India's new ambassador to the US Meera Shankar said, "This (deal) is very high on our priority. We are conscious of the fact that it was the US government which did the heavy hitting, if I may use a cricketing metaphor to get this deal through."

"We would very much like to move forward in a concrete way with agreements for building nuclear reactors with US assistance in India," Shankar said at a reception hosted in her honour by the US-India Business Council, in her maiden public engagement after presenting her credentials to President Barack Obama on Thursday.

Acknowledging the presence of leaders of the US nuclear industry who are anxious to convert the nuke deal into business agreements, Shankar said: "We are looking at the speedy negotiations of reprocessing arrangements to facilitate this process."

Both sides have agreed to commence this process and have identified their nodal points. "So we expect to pursue this very expeditiously," she said.

In terms of concerns on the Indian side, Shankar said New Delhi would like to see the liberalisation of the export licensing procedures flowing from the nuclear deal.

"If we have this agreement and at the same time the procedures continue to be as of old, then indeed we have frustrated one of the objectives of the agreement which is to provide a more facilitative climate for trade in high technologies which is again an area of great potential, with the US already being the single largest source of technology collaborations for Indian companies," Shankar said.

"We are also looking at the liability issues, which is a concern for US companies and that is something on which the Indian government has a policy discussion and is expected to try to move the issue forward," the new ambassador said.

"As I assume my responsibilities as ambassador in the United States, I look forward very much to working with the US industry, to take this relationship to the next level," she said.

"That is the message I have got from my political leaders. That is the message not only of the government but also the voice I hear from the Indian people," she told the leaders of the US corporate sector. The US industry had played a very influential role in the passage of the nuclear deal.

"I know there are some building blocks which the two governments have to put in place to enable this relationship to fulfill its potential and let me tell you this is something which is very much engaging our minds," Shankar said.

Expressing satisfaction over the growth of ties between the two countries, she said: "Overall, I would say there is enormous potential which I see, and I see there is a huge synergy between India and the United States."

Unlike in the past when one looked with scepticism at the country, she said India no longer has a credibility problem over the economic reform process. "We have moved quite far and our relationship with the United States has grown very significantly in these years," she observed.

Noting that the Indian economy today is more confident, she said: "We face the world with a greater degree of openness and that is the direction in which we will move."

Stating that for the Indian government the challenge now is to grow the economy on three legs -- agriculture and rural development, industry and services -- Shankar said: "I think these are three pillars where the US can be a very good partner for India and the potential of which exits is enormous."

Lalit K Jha
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