Press Conference With India's Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker MenonR. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Shiv Shanker Menon, Foreign Secretary
New Delhi, India
December 8, 2006
Released by U.S. Embassy New Delhi
FOREIGN SECRETARY MENON: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am very happy to be with Under Secretary of State Nick Burns. We have had a very productive day today, a series of talks right through the day where we reviewed the development of our bilateral relations between
During bilateral review, we naturally reviewed the status of the implementation of the 18th of July and the 2nd March Joint Statements. The last year or so has seen an unprecedented engagement both in terms of depth, in terms of levels, in terms of the wide range of subjects that we have covered between the
We noted progress in all the areas: in trade and in the economy, energy and agriculture, IPR issues, space, high tech, defense, global issues; it really was quite a wide ranging discussion. And we are working now on initiatives in each and every one of these fields. We also discussed expanding the horizon of cooperation and look forward to the next year, and we hope to continue these discussions today and tomorrow while Under Secretary Burns is with us here in
We also covered regional and international issues where we discussed questions relating to South Asia, to
In the afternoon when Mr. Shyam Saran was there, we discussed the implementation of the nuclear understandings that we have arrived at between
Overall, at the end of the day, I would say that India-U.S. relations are in a process of transformation. The nuclear cooperation is just one part of this overall transformation in the relationship, which we are very satisfied at and we are looking forward to continuing this. And our conversations today with Under Secretary Burns, I think, give us confidence that this will continue. I will now invite him to say a few words to you and then we will both take questions.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Foreign Secretary, thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be back in
It has been a year and a half since Prime Minister Singh came to
You know that we have just had the largest ever
All of this speaks to a relationship that is, as the Foreign Secretary says, under significant and positive transformation from the American point of view, and we are very pleased about this cooperation.
We also tried to look ahead today to 2007, and 2007 is going to be a very active year in the U.S.-India relationship. We will want to see us conclude, of course, all the implementing steps in the civil-nuclear accord. We will want to fulfill the mandate of Prime Minister Singh and President Bush from March 2, 2006. This extraordinary number of joint ventures, from agriculture to education, to space cooperation and space launch, to trade to the CEO Forum; all of the different measures that are transforming this relationship into, for the United States, one of our most important global strategic partnerships.
As the Foreign Secretary said, we need to look at areas where we can do more together. Certainly counterterrorism is an area
I would like to say a word about the civil-nuclear accord. This has occupied a lot of our time over the last year and a half. It was a pleasure to talk with the Foreign Secretary and a pleasure to see Shyam Saran again and to speak to him. As the Foreign Secretary said, our Congress has been meeting over the last two weeks to put the two bills that have been passed by historically large margins - in the House by over 350 votes, in the Senate 85 to 12 - to put them together in one final bill, in what we call a Conference Bill, that we hope and expect will be voted upon in the next 36 hours or so. That bill will then be sent to President Bush, and I am sure that he will be very pleased to sign that bill into law.
Since we have not seen the text of the bill, the Congress has not yet sent it to our Administration, I couldn't comment on the details because we haven't seen them. But I would say this. Based on my own interaction with members of Congress and their staffs over the last two weeks, I anticipate a very successful and supportive bill. I think the bill that will emerge will support the agreements of July 18, 2005 and March 2, 2006. It will be, in my judgment, well within the parameters of the agreement that was made between our two leaders in March in 2006 and again in July in 2005. And it will be a bill that will allow us to look towards 2007 and to complete all the necessary steps, the bi-lateral civil-nuclear accord, the 123 Agreement, of course, the provisions that India must undertake with the IAEA, etc, so that we can put into place, we hope, as quickly as possible in the coming year a full agreement and actually have the United States and our companies here assisting India to develop its civil-nuclear sphere.
This will be a tremendous achievement for both countries. I would say historic. And, from an American point of view, particularly significant because it has very strong bi-partisan agreement, by the President's party, the Republican Party, and by the Democratic Party and its leaders in the Congress. So, while we haven't seen the final bill, I am very optimistic. It is going to put us in a very good place and we look forward to seeing it and discussing it with the Indian Government and having our Congress move ahead.
QUESTION: Can you tell us something about the
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you. Since I have not and no one else in the administration has seen the final bill, I simply cannot comment. I think that it would be a great mistake to try to imagine what the Congress is going to say on this issue because it is up to the Congress to say that. But I will say this. We greatly respect the fact that
We in the
FOREIGN SECRETARY MENON: As to your question about the relationship and how to characterize it and how does it compare with others. I think when I said the nature of our relationship now is really unprecedented given the sort of engagement we have, I think what I was trying to say is that, please don't compare this with either what we have done before. Because we have never done this before,
So, please, that is why I used the word unprecedented. My hope is that we can carry on this process of transforming the relationship, and I am very optimistic for the future of the relationship. That as our capabilities grow, our common interests grow, and we learn to work with each other as we have shown over the last year and a half on civil nuclear energy. As we go through this process I think the prospects keep opening up.
QUESTION: Will the commitment by President Bush regarding uninterrupted fuel supplies to
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you. Your question gives me the opportunity to thank the Congress of the
And then we need to get on to an easier stage. The most difficult part of this process, in my view as the person who negotiated this on behalf the
And so it is going to be a historic time, and as we look towards 2007, I think the completion of a 123 Agreement is really a codification of the major and difficult decisions we have already made. And, of course, there is a long process towards the finish line, but it is not going to be, in my judgment, as difficult as the last 18 months. And so it is a time, I think, for us to be thankful for the work that we have done and to congratulate ourselves that we have come a long, long way. And we think this is in the best interest of the
QUESTION: For Mr. Menon, how will
FOREIGN SECRETARY MENON: You obviously know more than I do about this bill. I haven't seen it. So I would rather not comment on something that is hypothetical. But our basic approach is quite clear. What is being done here, and what we have both agreed to do here, and the basis on which we have spoken to the NSG, for instance, is that we are doing a stand-alone arrangement recognizing India's unique position - the responsible role that we have played in nuclear affairs and our need for civil nuclear energy cooperation with the rest of the world.
But it is a special arrangement that we have worked out and it is on that basis that we are moving forward. How it is linked to one provision or the other of the bill, how those provisions work themselves out - all that for us is hypothetical until we see the bill. And so I m not going to comment on that.
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I am going to avoid a hypothetical question. But I will say this. Everyone understands that
I would also say this. It just bears repeating a point I made earlier. It is important that
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think the U.S.-India relationship is very strong and I have great confidence we're going to carry that forward in the future. It is interesting if you go back and look at some of the reaction in the
I think we broke new ground. We took a 30-year policy of keeping India on the outside - of preventing India from participating in normal international commerce and trade in nuclear technology -- and we changed it, our two governments, particularly our two leaders.
Sometimes change is difficult for people to accept, but you see in the United States, the Democrats, the Republicans, the leadership of both houses of Congress, come together to support this. I have been pleased to see a large measure of support in
QUESTION: What kind of reactions are you getting from the NSG countries on the deal?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: You are right to suggest that at the end of this process the Nuclear Suppliers Group is going to have to agree by consensus, meaning everyone, to make the same type of changes in NSG practice that the United States Congress is just about to make today or tomorrow in United States law. We have spent the better part of the last year talking to our partners, including the Chinese Government and others, about this arrangement. And we are, of course, enthusiastic supporters of the Nuclear Suppliers Group taking a positive initiative to support
I think the great majority of countries in the NSG have already come out to support
QUESTION: Will the concerns on nuclear apartheid [inaudible] be addressed? For Mr. Menon, what about the BJP comments today that the PM's behavior on this deal has been demeaning?
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, let me just say that I am kind of surprised that anybody would use the term "nuclear apartheid."
The argument we have made around the world is: how do you keep the country that will soon be the largest country in the world by population,
We saw this as an issue of great strategic importance, of strategic liberation. As I said before, sometimes people when they react to change do so in a conventional way. This is undoubtedly the right step to take for the whole world, and I think you are going to see a very large majority in support in our own country but also around the world.
FOREIGN SECRETARY MENON: I am not sure what statement you are talking about, but if your characterization of it is accurate, about the Prime Minister's behavior being described as somehow "demeaning, " it seems to me that it shows a complete misunderstanding of a democratic way of working. Here is an issue between
So I can't see how these things are demeaning. I don't see protocol or anything coming into it if we discuss these things among ourselves. This is what two friendly countries do, and leaders in these countries will do this. This is normal. Quite frankly I haven't seen exactly what you're talking about.
QUESTION: What is the
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: The Foreign Secretary and I are in a particular position - neither of us has seen the text of the bill, the common bill, the conference bill that's emerging. So to answer detailed questions about spent fuel or end use is really impossible. It wouldn't be very wise for me to try to guess as to what will be in this. You are asking me to comment on the Administration's view on a piece of legislation that I have not seen. I will be here in
Let me just say this, what this bill is going to do, it is going to operationalise the intent of President Bush and Prime Minister Singh. And that is to open up a flow of capital and of technology to help
FOREIGN SECRETARY MENON: I think your question to me was what is
NAVTEJ SARNA: Thank you very much.
Released on December 8, 2006