Joint Press Interaction by US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Mr. Nicholas Burns and Foreign Secretary, Mr. Shyam Saran
October 21, 2005
MEA OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON (MR. NAVTEJ SARNA): Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this press interaction with visiting US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Mr. Nicholas Burns and Foreign Secretary Mr. Shyam Saran. We will first request Mr. Burns to make his opening statement, then Foreign Secretary will make his statement, and then there will be questions.
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure for me to be back in Delhi. I want to thank Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran for his terrific hospitality to my delegation and to me today. We had a very good day and it has been a full day especially for those of us who arrived late last night after a long flight. We had a good discussion this morning about this new strategic partnership that we are building, India and United States together and it is a very strong partnership.
Before I go into the few words that I wanted to say about today, I wanted to, again on behalf of President Bush and the American people, extend the condolences of the United States to the victims in Jammu and Kashmir, to Indian victims as well as the Pakistani victims of the terrible earthquake. From the beginning, our country has tried to reach out and extend whatever assistance we could to the Indian victims. Our Ambassador and Embassy put forward 100,000 dollars to Indian and American non-governmental organizations. I would like to announce today that we will now contribute an additional 500,000 dollars to the Indian non-governmental organizations as well as some of the international organizations that are supplying relief aid to the victims and the families of the victims of the earthquake.
I would also like to say that my Government has been very pleased by the progress in building this relationship that Prime Minister Singh and President Bush began on July 18 in Washington DC. This for us is a historic turning point in our nearly sixty-year relationship with India. There has never been a period of time when our relations have been better, when our consultations have been more expansive, and when the future has held a greater promise about cooperation between our countries.
We see India as a great power in the world. We seek a partnership with India whereby we can work together for peace and stability in the world, and work together to confront many of the challenges that we surely are going to face in the next forty to fifty years. On that basis, today the Foreign Secretary and I had a very good discussion about the July 18 agreement. You know, it is more than just a civil nuclear agreement. We now have joint ventures that the Prime Minister and President have asked us to undertake and to plan in the field of education, in agriculture, in science and technology, in space launch. We very much would like to welcome an Indian citizen to fly on our space shuttle so that our space programme can have the advantage of Indian expertise and Indian commitment.
We have a very broad economic dialogue under way. Our Secretary of the Treasury would be arriving here shortly. United States Trade Representative Ambassador Portman will be here shortly. We have a new energy dialogue between our Governments. We have a CEO forum. We have a trade dialogue between our two Governments. In addition to that we have a new and very promising security relationship which Secretary Mukherjee and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld enunciated last year.
So, what we have in essence is the development of a true, comprehensive, across-the-board engagement between the Governments of India and the United States and also the societies. There are more Indian students in the United States today than from any other country in the world - 85,000. There are two million Indian Americans in our country at least, who are building businesses in our country. They are running for political office, they are influential, and they are building bridges back to India from my country.
This private sector engagement as well as public sector engagement are creating the kind of relationship that will make India, we believe, in the period of years to come among the most important partners of the United States anywhere in the world. So, this morning we covered in exhaustive details, I think in about three hours, all of the joint venture initiatives that we have between our Governments.
This afternoon we spoke about the very important civil nuclear energy cooperation that my Government has committed to begin with the Indian Government. This is a very promising agreement. We are working hard on it. As you know, in our country we are consulting with our Congress and briefing our Congress on the outlines of the arrangement.
Just this week the United States led the discussion at the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna and we advocated that the Nuclear Suppliers Group now modify its practices that all the members would engage in civil nuclear cooperation, also they are willing, with the Indian Government. We look forward in the early part of 2006 to our Congress passing legislation in the United States that would allow our Government and our private sector to begin an international basis of cooperation with India as well.
We had a very good discussion of this issue. We went through all of the detail that you can imagine, and we look forward to the further discussions that we are going to have in the next couple of months.
Finally might I say that beyond the bilateral economic, scientific and educational cooperation beyond the civil nuclear arrangement which is at the heart of our effort, we find an increasingly positive dialogue with India on the issues that concern this region. We, of course, are both democratic countries and we hope for peace and stability in this region. Both of us are working for democracy in Nepal. Both of us are working for stability in the other countries in this region. And, of course, my country hopes, as we look at India and look at Pakistan, for a progress in that relationship. But more importantly, in just this region we see India as a global partner. And so, tomorrow we will be discussing not only these regional issues but some of the global issues, promotion of democracy, combating HIV AIDS, seeking reform of the United Nations, these global issues that are so important to our partnership.
So, we are very pleased to be here. We thank the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues for their hospitality. We look forward to a very productive relationship in the future.
MR. SHYAM SARAN: First of all, let me once again say how happy I am to be able to welcome my old friend Nick Burns again here in Delhi. I think this is his second visit in about four months and I am sure that there will be many more encounters to come.
Really I do not find that I have very much to add to a very comprehensive assessment that has been given by Nick to you. We have had a very intensive dialogue this morning as well as this afternoon. In the morning we went through all the different items of cooperation which were spelt out in the joint statement when our Prime Minister had visited Washington. As Nick said, perhaps the focus was so much on the civilian nuclear energy cooperation aspect that many of the other very important things that we had agreed to do perhaps did not find the same salience in terms of the public projection of our partnership. But each one of those items on our agenda is important. For example, we reviewed the progress that we have made on energy cooperation, a very key area for our interaction. There we have set up already the various Working Groups. We have identified what are the priority areas where we want to move ahead. The United States of America is the leader in terms of clean coal technologies. It is a leader in terms of coal gasification technology. There are a number of areas where there really is a great deal for us to be really working together on.
Similarly, we have reviewed the progress that we have made on our Global Initiative on HIV AIDS. I did convey to Nick our appreciation of the much faster approvals that are being given to Indian drugs, ARV drugs, by the Federal Drug Administration. This is very welcome in terms of the global initiative that we are talking about. We spoke about the Democracy Initiative and I brought to Nick’s attention that our website ‘The Virtual Centre for Democracy’ is very much in progress. There is a lot of information about the kind of institution-building which is possible through training institutions in India. We spoke about how we can cooperate together in terms of such institution-building in a country like, say, Afghanistan. We may have a US-India interaction on the issue of federalism, for example. This is something that we can talk about.
We touched upon the very important area of our economic and trade interaction. As you know, we have a very high-powered CEO’s Forum. That has been very active. They are working out certain recommendations to make to the Government, but also quite apart from recommendations they make to the Government, what they would be doing themselves in terms of promoting investment, promoting trade between the two countries.
We also reviewed the Agriculture Initiative. There we recalled how the United States of America had made a very major contribution to the ‘Green Revolution’ in India in the 60s. There was very close relationship between the universities in United States and our agricultural universities. We are trying to recreate, not only recreate but greatly expand that kind of cooperation between the two countries, something which will have a direct impact on agricultural development in India, a very key sector for India. And US is a very important partner in that respect.
As you can see, there is a whole expanse that has been covered. I think we could have talked on and on about all these areas of cooperation. But I would like to give you a sense that really what we were trying to do was to see where we are at this point of time, looking forward to welcoming President Bush on his landmark visit to India sometime early next year. We would want that in each of these areas we have something in terms of deliverables which we will be able to present to the leaders, and I think we are making good progress. That is what our assessment was.
I would also like to mention that we had a very good discussion on the Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement between our two countries, during the afternoon. As you know, this is a complicated issue but what is more important is that both countries are fully committed to the implementation of this extremely important understanding which was reached between President Bush and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in Washington.
I mentioned to Nick that in terms of some of the responsibilities which India has to carry out, we have delivered on some of them. The WMD legislation, the harmonization of our export control list with the NSG and MTCR, the fact that we are committed to working together with the United States of America in terms of new global standards for control on reprocessing and enrichment technologies being exported to third countries. As you know, India has unilaterally declared that it will not transfer such technologies to other countries. So, we are already conforming to, and becoming a partner in a global non-proliferation regime and we see ourselves, both United States and India, as partners in that effort. So, we believe that it will be possible for us, as Nick said, by the time the President comes on his visit to India we hope that we will have a very good agreement between our two sides, an implementable agreement between our two sides on this very important question.
This has been a very productive visit by Nick. We enjoyed having him here and exchanging views with him. We look forward to having another very exhaustive session tomorrow on a number of regional and international issues.
I will conclude by extending our thanks to the United States Administration for the fresh assistance that has been announced by Nick this evening. This is a very friendly gesture on their part. We deeply appreciate the sympathy and concern which has been conveyed to us at the level of the President and the Secretary of State. I also welcome the words of sympathy that we have heard today from Nick himself.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION (SAURABH SHUKLA, INDIA TODAY): Mr. Burns, there is sense here that Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement for extending assistance to India is also linked somehow to India slowing down their Iran pipeline project. What is your view on that? Is it linked at all?
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: The Prime Minister and the President are the ones who made the agreement back on July 18 very specific. I brought it out today and just reread it myself. It is a very simple statement. It expresses the intention of both Governments to work towards full civil nuclear energy cooperation. It lists the responsibilities of the United States and the obligations of the United States to India to make this happen. And it lists the obligations of the Government of India. That is the agreement. I know that both sides will fulfill the obligations that we have to each other and when those obligations are fully in place then the agreement will be in force and will see a new future of civil nuclear energy cooperation between our countries. No other issue is associated with it. It is very important as we go along here that we meet the commitments we have made to each other, and that we not move the goalpost or - as we say in American English - raise the bar.
Now having said all that, and I hope that is very clear to you, we also obviously have a discussion underway with the Government of India on a wide variety of issues. We agree on nearly all the issues we discuss, and sometimes we disagree which is not uncommon between two large democratic States. I think Secretary Rice has spoken before. You have asked her when she was here in Delhi, a question about Iran and the pipeline. I know I have spoken about it before. We know that this is something that has not yet been completed. We know it is in essence hypothetical. So I can leave it to my friend Shyam Saran to speak to that part of the question, not me.
MR. SHYAM SARAN: I think you directed the question to him. You did not ask me.
QUESTION: Mr. Burns …Government of India …
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: As I said before, actually we have not even had a discussion today about this because we are discussing regional issues tomorrow. So, since we do not have a press conference tomorrow, I am very sorry we would not be able to answer your questions on this issue. But, I think we have been clear in the past. we understand that this is something that has been talked about, but there has been no agreement between the Governments. So, it would not be appropriate for me to react to something that has not happened.
QUESTION: What are your views on Iran and the upcoming vote …(Inaudible)… Are you going to watch India’s voting behaviour if it comes to voting on November 24? And what happens, if India abstains or does not vote for the Resolution this time?
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: Well, the first thing that I learnt when I was a State Department Spokesman ten years ago is - never answer hypothetical questions but you are asking hypothetical questions here today.
But, let me give you a serious answer. What do we think about Iran? We are concerned about the attitude and the behaviour of the Government of Iran. Iran is a State trying to build nuclear weapons capability. I do not think there is a single country in the world that wants to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons. You will notice at the IAEA vote in September that Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa abstained. They did not support Iran in that vote. That probably came as somewhat of a surprise to the Iranian Government. The only country they had voting (against the Resolution) was Venezuela. And if you have only got Venezuela on your side and you have the rest of the world not agreeing with where this country Iran is heading in terms of its nuclear future, then the Iranians must feel fairly isolated and fairly alone in the world these days. Our belief is that Iran should come back to negotiations. They unilaterally abrogated the negotiations with the European Three in August. The European Three was negotiating in good faith. There is still a possibility for Iran to sit down with the European countries and seek a diplomatic solution to this very important problem. Our advice to the Government of Iran is to do that. Come back to negotiations and resolve this issue by peaceful and diplomatic means.
But Iran is a country that most of the world beliefs, is trying to create a nuclear weapons future. It is also a country that is the leading supporter and funder of the major terrorist groups in the Middle East - the groups that are in action in Israel, in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. As a country devoted to counter-terrorism worldwide, we are extremely concerned about Iranian behaviour. Our Secretary of State has spoken about also the very unhelpful Iranian behaviour in Iraq, specifically concerning support to terrorist groups there. …inaudible…and we believe that the best route forward is negotiations.
Now, if Iran does not come back to negotiations, then there is every reason to believe that there will be a vote in the IAEA Board of Governors on November 24. There is majority that already exists. There are countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America that have voted to find Iran not to be in compliance. That is a fairly sizeable and widely spread sense of the international opinion on Iran.
QUESTION (AMIT BARUAH): My question is addressed to Mr. Shyam Saran. In Parliament in the end of July our Prime Minister said that before voluntarily placing our nuclear facilities under IAEA watch, we will ensure that all restrictions on India will be lifted. In your discussions today, did this point come across? What is our position? When will we separate or go to the IAEA with our civilian and military nuclear facilities? Will it be before implementation of the …
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: I think I have even earlier answered this question that you have raised at an earlier press conference and I said that there is a Joint Working Group which has been set up to precisely work out the practical modalities through which the understanding which has been arrived at between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of India are going to be implemented. Now, what we had this afternoon was the first, initial exchange of views on precisely looking at those modalities. What I can tell you is that those modalities are within the very clear parameters which have been set out in the Joint Statement of July 18. I think it is very clear what the commitments on the US side are and what the commitments on the Indian side are. Today we confirm that we will work out the modalities within those parameters, and we will be looking at precisely what are the kind of modalities that we need to put in place.
What we had today was an initial exchange of views on those modalities. We sought certain clarifications from the American side and the American side also asked for clarifications on our side. Now what we will be doing is, we will be taking these back and reflect upon them and very soon we will be coming back, in another meeting of the Joint Working Group, to take this discussion further.
QUESTION (INDRANI, THE TIMES OF INDIA): We have seen reports that senior Senators and Congressmen are opposing the Civilian Nuclear Agreement … How content are you in the Administration that you will be able to carry it to the next stage in the Congress?
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: Let me tell you that our Administration is fully committed to the agreement that our President signed with Prime Minister Singh. We believe it is an agreement that is beneficial to the United States as well as to India, and we intend to carry it out in full. We have been talking to members of Congress since the afternoon of the agreement. The agreement was signed on July 18. We have had extensive conversations in our House of Representatives as well as our Senate. I believe that there is significant support for the agreement on Capitol Hill.
It is also true - there are more than 500 members of our Congress – that there are some members and some staff members who have doubts about it. There are some who are opposed. We are a democratic country as is India. So, you recognize this in a national debate on an important issue. But, as more and more information is produced about the actions of my Government and the Indian Government as we carry out the agreement, I am convinced that our Congress will support this. Our hope is, when President Bush visits India, and he is looking forward to it very much, 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 it is our expectation.
I agree Shyam, we had an extensive and a very detailed conversation today about a very complex issue and I think it was a good conversation. We will go on from here and we will make this work.
QUESTION (RANJIT KUMAR, NAVBHARAT TIMES): … The Nuclear Suppliers Group has postponed its meeting till the next … Do you think it will come in the way of implementation of this agreement?
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: You are right to point to the importance of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. One of the obligations we have is to put in place a change in American law that will allow this civil nuclear energy cooperation. A second obligation, the commitment that we made to the Indian Government, would be to avocate within the Nuclear Suppliers Group a similar action by that body. We had a very good first meeting two days ago. As I said, the United States sent two Assistant Secretaries of State - Christina Rocca and Steve Rademaker, to present the American position. We feel that it was favourably received by many members of the Nuclear Suppliers Gorup. Others, of course, had questions. The next regularly scheduled meeting is in May but we can call a meeting as a member at any time. As soon as that becomes logical, we will be happy to do that. So, I do not expect this to be an impediment to the bilateral cooperation that the United States and India have undertaken.
QUESTION (NAIR): Mr. Burns, … the Press Secretary of the White House said that this agreement with India on nuclear cooperation is based on a realistic assessment of things and a commitment by India to abide by certain restrictions. Does that include anything other than what has been stated in the Joint Statement between the Prime Minister of India and President of America?
MR. NICHOLAS BURNS: No, it does is not. We are very clear in our Administration. I am here speaking on behalf of President Bush and Secretary Rice. Ambassador Mulford is here everyday as our Ambassador, to do the same thing. Both of us understand that this agreement has not changed. Take it out and read it tonight. What the United States said we would in that agreement we will do and we are not adding any conditions that we expect the Indian Government to meet. We had this conversation today and I assured my friend Shyam that we Americans will meet the obligations we have undertaken.