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India, US Reaffirm Civilian Nuclear Deal


India and the United States say both countries are fully committed to implementing a landmark civilian nuclear energy cooperation deal, signed earlier in the year. The U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns is on a visit to India.

After a day of intensive discussions with Indian officials in New Delhi, U.S. Undersecretary of State, Nicholas Burns, says he is confident the U.S. Congress will approve the nuclear energy agreement signed by the two countries in July.

As part of the deal, the United States has agreed to give India access to civilian nuclear energy technology barred so far to New Delhi because it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But it must be approved by the Congress and many members - both Republican and Democrat - have voiced concern that it could undermine global non-proliferation efforts.

Nevertheless, Mr. Burns says the Bush administration is winning support on Capitol Hill for the agreement.

"I am convinced that our Congress will support this," he said. "And I hope by the time President Bush visits India… in the early part of 2006, we will have made sufficient progress so that this agreement can be put into place. That is our hope and our expectation."

The nuclear deal was signed during a visit to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Manomohan Singh in July, amid steadily-warming ties between the two countries. If implemented, the agreement will help India meet its burgeoning energy needs.

As part of the deal, India has agreed to separate its military and civilian nuclear programs, and open its civilian reactors to international inspection to ensure that nuclear supplies are not diverted for military use.

Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran, who led the discussions on the Indian side, says New Delhi is already working on how to implement its part of the agreement.

"In terms of some of the responsibilities which India has to carry out, we have delivered on some of them…," he said. "We are already conforming to and becoming a partner in a global nonproliferation regime and we see ourselves both the United States and India - as partners in this effort."

Mr. Burns says the United States sees India emerging as a "major partner" in the coming years. He is scheduled to hold more discussions with Indian officials on Saturday.

India's growing proximity to Washington is believed to have influenced New Delhi to vote with Washington last month to threaten Iran with referral to the U.N. Security Council, for its nuclear activities.

In New Delhi, Mr. Burns called on Tehran to return to negotiations and find a diplomatic solution regarding the nuclear issue.