Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Obama nominee backtracks on n-deal

Administration supports the agreement and intends to implement it, says Ellen O. Tauscher…

11 June 2009
The Hindu

Obama nominee backtracks on n-deal

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: As a Congresswoman, Ellen O. Tauscher strongly opposed the U.S.-India nuclear deal. But President Barack Obama’s nominee for a key non-proliferation post in the State Department did a U-turn on Tuesday, telling a Senate panel that the new administration supports the agreement and intends to implement it and that she would do her part to further nuclear cooperation with India if confirmed in the job of Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Ms. Tauscher’s views were expressed in a series of answers to written questions posed by Senator Richard Lugar.

“During the course of the [nuclear deal], there were supporters and sceptics in both countries,” she said. “However, upon its successful conclusion, both our Administration and the Government of India have resolved to continue moving forward to strengthen our important strategic relationship. I look forward to doing my part to advance that cooperation.”

She highlighted India’s “enhanced non-proliferation commitments” and said the U.S.-India 123 Agreement “has also opened new pathways for a strengthened bilateral non-proliferation relationship and for a greater Indian leadership role on non-proliferation issues.”

Reiterating India’s promise to place orders for “at least 10,000 MWe worth of new power generation capacity from U.S. firms,” Ms. Tauscher said she would “work with our counterparts elsewhere in the U.S. Government to ensure all possible efforts are being made to promote U.S. business opportunities in India’s civil nuclear energy sector.”

Asked about the impending bilateral talks on reprocessing arrangements and procedures, she said the administration was now in the process of determining what provisions should be contained in such an agreement.

“Once we have an interagency agreement on a proposed text, and have consulted with the IAEA on its needs, we will forward a draft text to the Indian side for comment and will offer to open consultations on a specific date.” This would happen before August 2, 2009, with an agreement to be finalised by August 2010.

Setting to rest Indian apprehensions about the Obama administration’s attitude towards the reprocessing of spent U.S. fuel in India, Ms. Tauscher said Washington was committed to implementing the 123 Agreement, which provided for programmatic consent for reprocessing, and that the bottom-line for America would be effective IAEA safeguards.

“While it is difficult to predict at this time all the conditions under which reprocessing would be an unacceptable alternative to other forms of nuclear spent fuel and waste management, the most likely would be situations where the IAEA, for whatever reason, concluded that it was unable to apply effective safeguards to a new national reprocessing facility, or where effective physical protection of the facility and the nuclear material therein could not be assured.”

She also conceded that it would be several years before the new Indian reprocessing facility was built.

If Indian officials are comforted by the ability of non-proliferation hawks like Ms. Tauscher to change tracks and get on with the programme, the U-turn she took on A.Q. Khan and Pakistani proliferation may not be reassuring.

In Congress, Ms. Tauscher sponsored legislation seeking to condition military aid to Pakistan on the U.S. getting access to the disgraced nuclear scientist. On Tuesday, however, she told Senator Lugar such conditioning was unnecessary.

“The United States obtained a great deal of information about the Khan network without having direct access to A.Q. Khan, and, with the assistance of Pakistan and other countries, we successfully dismantled that network.”

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This entry was posted on June 11, 2009 by in Nuclear Issues, U.S. Policy in South Asia.

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