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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2006 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Remarks to the Press With Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
New Delhi, India
January 20, 2006

MODERATOR: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this joint press interaction between Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran and Under Secretary of State Mr. Nicholas Burns. This has to be a quick press interaction, so after the two opening remarks have been made, we have time only for a few questions because the Under Secretary has to catch a flight and the Foreign Secretary has another engagement at 5:00, so I will request the Foreign Secretary first to address the press.

FOREIGN SECRETARY SARAN: Well, good evening to all of you. First of all, let me take this opportunity of welcoming Under Secretary Nicholas Burns. We have spent the last couple of days in very friendly and very intensive discussions on a whole range of issues. Let me begin by saying that a part of the discussions -- a very important part of the discussions -- was focused on the forthcoming landmark visit of President Bush and Mrs. Bush on a state visit to India, which we expect to take place sometime in the first week of March this year. I conveyed to Under Secretary Burns and his delegation that a very warm welcome awaits President Bush and Mrs. Bush to India. In our discussions, we looked at how this, the itinerary that we are looking at -- both the protocol aspects as well as the substantive aspects of the visit -- is really reflective of the very significant transformation that has taken place, and is taking place in India-U.S. relations. So we had a preliminary and a broad discussion on that agenda. And of course, it will be for the advance team that will be coming from Washington and further discussions that we have with our American friends to really get a fix on that itinerary for that very important visit. We both attach a great deal of importance to this visit. It would be really another defining moment in Indo-U.S. relations.

As you are aware we also had another meeting of the Joint Working Group on Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation. As you know this group is headed by Under Secretary Burns on the U.S. side and myself on the Indian side. You would recall that when I had gone to Washington sometime back, I had shared with Under Secretary Burns some preliminary ideas about the kind of separation plan for our civil and military facilities that we were contemplating on the Indian side. We also discussed some other components of that proposed agreement, to which also we attach a lot of importance. For example we had a preliminary discussion about the kind of safeguards that we are looking at. We had a discussion about what is the kind of scope of our cooperation. A number of issues were discussed, but this was really the first time that we were going into some of the substantive aspects of the proposed agreement.

This current meeting that we had of the Joint Working Group enabled us to carry forward our discussions in much greater detail on all aspects of the proposed agreement. And it would be fair to say that, I think, we have today a much better understanding of the kind of perspectives that the United States has with regard to various aspects of this proposed agreement, and we have a much clearer perspective, as well. 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. In the course of these discussions, we have, for example, shared with the United States our plans for a very significant expansion of our civilian nuclear energy capability over the next few years, and what kind of scope of international cooperation that we envisage for meeting the targets that we have in the civil nuclear energy sector. So this has been an extremely useful discussion. It would be, as I said, fair to say that we need to have more discussions on this particular subject.

We also had occasion to exchange views on a number of regional issues. As you know, this aspect of our relationship has really developed in the recent past. We have been exchanging views and trying to coordinate our views on issues like Iran, on Nepal, Sri Lanka, and a number of these issues were discussed, although there was not so much time to go over the entire spectrum of regional issues. But we had a very useful discussion on some of these items. Under Secretary Burns will be visiting Pakistan, I believe, as well as Sri Lanka. So this was a good occasion for us to exchange notes, particularly since recently we have had the visit of President Rajapaksa to India. As you know, just a couple of days back I myself had a round of discussions with my Pakistani counterpart so this was a very opportune moment for us to exchange notes on our relations with these countries.

So, once again this has been a very productive, very useful exchange of views -- as always -- and it has always been a pleasure to engage Nick in these very, very friendly, and very productive discussions. I look forward to having an opportunity to resume our dialogue in the none too distant future. Thank you very much, indeed.

MODERATOR: I now request Under Secretary Burns to address the press.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here. I want to thank Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran for his hospitality to myself and to our delegation. We have had a very good two days of discussions here in Delhi. I was in Mumbai the day before that and I believe that President Bush is going to have a very interesting and very successful visit here when he comes later this year. We believe that the character and the quality of U.S.-Indian relations have been transformed by the last several years, particularly through the leadership of the Prime Minister and of our President. They have identified a strategic partnership on a global basis between India and the United States that is qualitatively different that any relationship that our two countries have, had going back to the founding and the independence of India in 1947. And so it is our strong, strong impression that across the board the foundations have been laid for a new relationship, both on the bilateral economic, and science and technology, and agriculture, and energy, and educational initiatives that the Prime Minister and President laid out in the July 18 statement. And of course to the cooperation on regional and global foreign policy issues that Foreign Secretary Saran outlined for you.

On that score, we do consider India to be a global partner. It is important that we talk about the situation in Sri Lanka. We are concerned about the situation there: concerned about the level of violence, concerned about the break down in the ceasefire. In my trip to Colombo in a couple of days, I will certainly be meeting with the Sri Lankan Government, meeting with my Norwegian colleagues as well, to try to make sure that we are standing on the side of the preservation of the cease fire and of peace and of a peaceful resolution of disputes there. In Nepal, the United States is very concerned by the actions of His Majesty the King in arresting and detaining members of the political establishment in the last couple of days, and we have issued a statement, frankly, very critical of that. We are equally critical, of course, of the Maoists. We believe that they should not be using violence as a political weapon. What India and the United States can do to get together to try to assert a joint appeal for peace and for democratic reconciliation in Nepal is very important.

And certainly, we had a very good discussion of Iran. You all know the position of my government. We believe that Iran is a threat to peace, both in its own region and globally. Iran has overstepped the bounds of international law in seeking to use its facility at Natanz for centrifuge research and enrichment. You have heard what our President and Secretary of State had to say about Iran during the last week. We had a thorough discussion of the situation with Foreign Secretary Saran.

We are hopeful that when the President visits, we will see a fruition of many of the joint initiatives that we have undertaken to strengthen the U.S.-India relationship. I mentioned some of them. I would say on the question of our future agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, we remain hopeful that we will be able to achieve this agreement. It is a very difficult undertaking, and it is a unique undertaking. I am not sure any two governments have actually had a negotiation quite like this, because the situation is unique, India’s position is unique, and there is a complexity and a difficulty to these talks, which is inherent in the subject. Yet, we worked very well together for two days here. We listened to each other. I believe the American delegation learned a lot from what we heard from the Indian Government about its own perspective. Both Foreign Secretary Saran and I have committed to each other that we’ll continue these talks, hopefully towards an agreement in the not too distant future.

So I am very pleased by the visit here. I think we have a great friend in India -- we Americans. We are very grateful for the role that India is playing in the world today, and we are hopeful that this new relationship is going to go on to even greater heights in the future. I want to thank my good friend Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran for his hospitality and for his welcome that he has shown myself and my delegation.

MODERATOR: First question this side, New York Times.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Will Congress be inclined not to give India nuclear (inaudible)?

FOREIGN SECRETARY SARAN: Well, as far as India is concerned, the Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement stands on its own merits, and whatever interaction we have had in the recent past with visiting Congressmen, visiting Senators, and the interaction that we have also had ourselves with Congressmen and Senators in Washington leads us to believe that there is a fund of goodwill for India in the U.S. Congress, that there is a very pervasive feeling of friendship and support -- a bi-partisan support for a much stronger Indo-U.S. relationship. Therefore, we remain hopeful that the Civilian Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement, once it has been negotiated between the two Administrations, when it goes to the Congress, we remain hopeful that it will receive a positive response.

MODERATOR: Question at the back, NDTV.

QUESTION: (inaudible) You describe the talks as being difficult and unique. From the papers submitted by India, do you feel that they are credible? And to Mr. Saran, do you agree with the EU and the U.S. on Iran?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much. You know we set out in July -- the Prime Minister and President set out -- to undertake something new in international politics, and that is that the United States made a commitment to India, and India made some commitments to the United States, that we would try to overcome 30 years of division and disagreement on the civil-nuclear issue, that the United States would commit to make the argument to the Nuclear Suppliers Group as well as to the United States Congress that both U.S. law and international law and practice should be overturned to permit the international community to engage in trade, in technology transfer, in investment in India’s civil nuclear energy. We think that proposition is an important one and will further the nonproliferation objectives of the international community, because the largest country in the world -- the largest democracy in the world, India -- will no longer be outside the system, but will be inside the system. And of course, that has enormous potential benefits for India. The benefits for the United States and the world community are that we’ll be working with India -- and engaging India -- on an equal basis. And so they’ll build benefits for both sides. It’s a very attractive proposition.

What is unique and difficult, of course, is that this kind of thing has not been done before. India is a unique country, and its position on this particular issue and this industry is unique, obviously. And so, President Bush has taken the position that this is in the interests of the United States. It is in the interests of the other countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and we’ve had very good discussions in many different cities -- in New York, in Washington, in Delhi, I think we have met in some European capitals, we have talked a lot on the phone -- and I think what we’ve been able to do is establish a framework for how this agreement can work. We’ve now had a thorough discussion with the competent nuclear authorities of each government, by the way -- in Foreign Secretary Saran’s delegation, in my own delegation -- about the intricacies and the details of this. And there’s no question that we have made some progress over the last six months, but that much further progress has to be made, and that there are some difficulties ahead of us. But I have spent 25 years in diplomacy thinking that with goodwill and with dedication countries can reach agreements, and I have the same feeling about this agreement.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

FOREIGN SECRETARY SARAN: We remain very supportive of the initiative taken by the European-3 to engage Iran in finding an amicable solution to some of the issues which have been raised with regard to the Iranian nuclear program. We have been extremely supportive of that process. And it stands to reason that, you know, India -- which has with Iran a very long-standing, close, and what we call a ‘civilizational’ relationship with its people -- that we would not like to see a situation of confrontation developing in a region that is very close to India. Therefore, our advice has always been that confrontation should be avoided. This is the message that we have given to our friends -- this is a message which, by the way, we have also given to our Iranian friends -- that an effort needs to be made in order to avoid a situation of confrontation from developing. We also believe that in dealing with this issue, it is important to develop as broad an international consensus as possible. And much of our effort over the last several weeks has been directed towards developing that international consensus. And that is the spirit in which we have also discussed this matter in the last couple of days, both with the United States of America, as also a representative of the EU-3, who has been on a visit to India recently, as well as with Iran.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Associated Press.

QUESTION: (inaudible) You have been talking about difficulties in implementing this agreement. What are those difficulties?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I wish I had the luxury of taking you into the inside of these negotiations and telling you all the details, but I’m afraid that would violate all rules of diplomacy if I did that. Suffice it to say, I talked about the unique nature of these negotiations -- given the history of the nonproliferation regime, given India’s own history, in the nuclear sphere. I think that has added to the complexity of the negotiations, just by definition. There’s no question that we believe -- and we’ve said many times -- that for any agreement to be credible with the United States Congress and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it’s going to have to be a detailed agreement, it’s going to have to be substantial. Despite the fact that we’ve been at this for six months, I think there’s still a further ways to go. Both sides realize that, and we realize that we have our work cut out for us over the next several weeks. But we’re dedicated, as a friend of India, to work on a respectful and equal basis with the Indian Government.

We’ll have to see if we can be successful. I hope we can. I hope we can, because it’s very important that this agreement be realized. It’s an agreement made between the President and the Prime Minister. It would have enormous benefits for India. It would really allow India to engage in international trade -- in technology, in research and development -- with other countries, with other scientific institutions, in a way that has not been possible for 30 years. It would allow the nonproliferation 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 that all the rest of [us] have been meeting for a long time. We’re negotiating on that basis, and we’ll have to see what happens in the future. We’ll be working hard, but there are difficulties ahead.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up question: (inaudible) Are you going to be able to get this done before President Bush arrives?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I don’t know for sure. Our goal, of course, would be to have an agreement before President Bush arrives in India. We would hope for that. Of course, nothing is ever certain in these types of negotiations, but what we have going for us is that there is a lot of trust between the Government of the United States and the Government of India. We feel that trust. We feel that we’re negotiating with a highly professional set of diplomats on the Indian side; we know we have the goodwill of the Indian Government and they have ours. And in diplomacy that goes a long way. Both of us want to see the end of these negotiations, and want to see it move forward, and so we proceed on that basis.

QUESTION: (inaudible) equating India’s nuclear program with Iran and accusing the United States of double standards?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, I saw Dr. Larijani’s remarks, which asserted this kind of double standard, and frankly, I think everyone was surprised by them. They were outrageous remarks from our perspective, because how is it possible to compare India with Iran in the nuclear sphere? On the one hand, you have a country -- India -- that has never been a proliferator, that has been very responsible in safeguarding its nuclear technology. On the other hand, you have a government and a regime in Iran, which the IAEA says for 18 years conducted secret nuclear research without revealing it to the IAEA; a government that just last week unilaterally lifted the seals placed by the IAEA on the centrifuge facility at Natanz -- lifted it off unilaterally, said it would violate its agreement, in essence, with the European Union, by proceeding in nuclear research; a government that has earned the criticism of Russia, of China, of the European countries, of my own country, over the past two weeks.

I was in London earlier this week, meeting with the European-3 governments, with the Russian and Chinese governments, and while we don’t have identical views on this -- and I can’t speak for those other governments – I can tell you what united us. Each of the governments that I mentioned that met in London this past Monday, just a couple of days ago, believes that Iran has crossed a line it should not have crossed. It should heed the advice of Dr. El Baradei in the IAEA and return to negotiations. It should suspend its nuclear activities. It should not engage in centrifuge research, much less enrichment. My own government would say it should not engage in uranium conversion at the plant at Isfahan. So, Iran has clearly miscalculated. And the United States believes that there should be a vote of the IAEA Board of Governors on February 2nd, and there should be referral to the Security Council. Because, since Iran has crossed so many international red lines, Iran has to know that there’s going to be a penalty to be paid for such actions. That’s the American view on Iran. But for Dr. Larijani to assert somehow some equality between India and Iran by asserting a double standard is quite outrageous, and it’s quite off the mark.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.


Released on January 20, 2006

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