India and the US are making progress on implementation of the nuclear deal, but the two sides are "not yet there" as "some clarification" is needed from New Delhi on separation of its civilian and military facilities, the White House has said.
Previewing President George W Bush's three-day visit to India from March 1, US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley rejected the notion that "success" of the American leader's trip depended on finalisation of the civilian nuclear deal.
Asked about Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns' talks in New Delhi on the nuclear deal, he said, "There have been good consultations. He is now coming back to Washington to report on where we are on those discussions. We're making progress, but we're not yet there.
"The Indians, hopefully, will have an opportunity from their end to see where we are. And we would expect those negotiations will continue by phone, document and the like, probably up through the president's visit," he added.
Under the landmark deal reached between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush in Washington on July 18, 2005, India would have to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities, placing the former under international safeguards while the US would make a 'one time waiver' for India and urge Nuclear Suppliers Group to begin nuclear commerce with India.
Pressed on what the holdup on the deal is all about, Hadley argued that "it's just getting some clarification from the Indian side about what's in the civil side and what's on the military side, not only in terms of what exists now, at this time, but what are going to be the ground rules going forward. There's a lot of technical aspects to it."
"And the challenge, from the Indian side, of course, is this came up as an integrated programme, and now they're having to make the kind of separation that we've made and other countries have made. And it's hard. It's an issue about facilities, about people, about organisation. It's taken time to work through.
"Again, we're trying to see if we can use the visit (of Bush) as a forcing function. If we can, great. If not, we'll continue to work on it after the visit is over," Hadley remarked.
He said the negotiations on the nuclear deal have been ongoing for a while. "There have been exchange of papers, exchanges of phone calls. In this latest round, the Indians provided a document about a week ago; we provided some additional ideas and response."
"We would, obviously, like, and the Indians would like to use the occasion of this visit (of Bush) to reach an agreement on this separation agreement, so-called. We think that would be a good thing. But it's important to have a good agreement that works for the Indians, works for the United States, will be acceptable to our Congress and to the Nuclear Suppliers Group," he said.
"And that's our objective. We'd like to get it before the trip. If we can, great. If we can't, we'll continue to negotiate it after the trip," he added.
"This is a very broad and rich relationship between the United States and India right now, and the two leaders (Bush and Dr Singh) will have a lot to talk about, whether there's this agreement or not," Hadley emphasised.
He dismissed the notion that the "success" of Bush's trip depended on finalisation of the deal. "Certainly not. There is a long list of things that we are doing together with India, a long list of areas where we hope to have some things to announce during the trip that will demonstrate the breadth and intensity."
Hadley also rejected the contention that the nuclear deal with India is rewarding that country for "bad behaviour. I think what the nuclear agreement does is it brings India into, and has India accepting the kinds of proliferation restrictions that the rest of the international community has accepted. Because the US-India civil nuclear (deal) is premised on India and the United States getting on the same page with respect to proliferation.
"The first step was the so-called Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, which we entered into over two years ago and which was completed in July. And as part of that, as the US and India enhance their cooperation in the areas of space, high technology, civil nuclear, India was taking steps to bring its non-proliferation policies and practices in accord with ours and the international community, generally.
"It is our view, and is the president's view, that the civil nuclear cooperation will not only be good for India to help it deal with the enormous challenges it faces in its own development to find a clean, environmentally sound, and secure energy, but it also has the effect of bringing India on the same page as the rest of us in terms of the fight against nuclear proliferation," he added.