| Nicholas Burns: Positive
Washington, May 30: On the eve of President George W. Bush’s nuclear negotiator’s trip to India, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, has appeared on prime time American television and warned that “what India should have and should not have is for India to decide”.
Kakodkar had the ominous last word when he said, “I will leave it at that”, in a long programme on Delhi’s nuclear ambitions that was aired here last night on News Hour with Jim Lehrer, a highly regarded news programme watched by decision-makers across the US.
The Atomic Energy Commission chairman used his appearance on American television as the Indo-US nuclear talks are entering one of its most delicate phases to bluntly convey the long-held view of the Indian nuclear establishment on the so-called 123 agreement to facilitate nuclear cooperation with the US.
“India is a sovereign country. India has to take care of its own security requirements. And India has a right to do this, maintaining its own international commitments. So I think it is straightforward.”
The news programme, which was put together with the active cooperation of the Atomic Energy Commission and the state-owned Uranium Corporation of India, was a clear indication that the country’s nuclear establishment was now looking beyond the nuclear deal with the US and towards active involvement in global nuclear commerce pending normal ties between New Delhi and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
News Hour with Jim Lehrer acknowledged that this was the first time American television cameras had been allowed into an Indian uranium mine, this one in Jaduguda in Jharkhand.
Uranium supplies are central to realising the objectives of the Indo-US nuclear deal, which will be further negotiated when the American under-secretary of state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns, arrives in India tomorrow on a three-day visit.
Jaduguda is central to the uranium needs of India’s pressurised heavy water reactors. The Uranium Corporation of India’s chief, Ramendra Gupta, said on last night’s programme: “It is good if we have access to uranium resources outside India, but suppose it is not coming.… We are going ahead with our programme.”
The external affairs ministry and the US embassy in Delhi today simultaneously issued statements, clearing several days of confusion about the arrival of Burns in India.
Yesterday, the US state department’s deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, was asked if Burns was on vacation in India. He said Burns was in Berlin “as far as I know” and added that “there is no confirmed travel plans (to India) at this point”.
“The visit will also be the occasion for further discussions on the proposed bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement,” South Block said.
US ambassador to India David Mulford underlined difficulties in the way of concluding the 123 agreement.
“There is considerable work to be done on what is a very technical and detailed agreement. We want to finish as soon as we can.”