February 25, 2006

Differences continue over US-India nuclear pact

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The United States said on Saturday it
still had differences with India on finalizing a landmark
nuclear deal, but both sides were trying to sew up the pact
before President George W. Bush visits New Delhi next week.

The U.S. embassy statement came after Under Secretary of
State Nicholas Burns left New Delhi after three days of talks
with Indian officials over the civilian nuclear pact signed
last July in Washington by Bush and Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh.

"There are remaining differences but the U.S. hopes that
they can be closed before the president visits India," the
embassy in New Delhi said.

The deal, agreed to in principle, would give nuclear-armed
India access to long-denied U.S. nuclear equipment and fuel to
meet its soaring energy needs.

But it has hit obstacles as the United States insists that
a plan to separate India's civilian and nuclear facilities, on
which the deal rests, must be credible and transparent to
prevent proliferation.

India's powerful nuclear establishment is uneasy about
details of the civilian and military separation plan,
especially Washington's desire to see a large chunk of India's
22 nuclear reactors placed under international safeguards.

"Both sides want to work it out and you need patience and
to let the negotiators work it out," an U.S. embassy spokesman
told Reuters late on Friday.

Ties between the largest democracy and the most powerful
democracy have improved, especially after New Delhi was quick
to back the U.S.-war on terror after the September 11 attacks.

Many U.S. firms have business process outsourcing and
information technology firms in India, underlying the growing
economic cooperation between the two nations.