The Indo-US civilian nuclear energy accord is viewed by Indians as a "litmus test" of America's seriousness on developing strategic ties and failure to implement the agreement would be "very damaging" to Washington's vital interests, former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill said.
"We are at a historic intersection of US-India relationship. The Indians see this (the civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement) as a litmus test of our seriousness with respect to the development of the strategic relationship and they have a long history of suspicion," Blackwill said during an address at the US Chamber of Commerce organised under the aegis of the US India Business Council.
"If this were to fail, I believe this would set back the evolving US-India strategic partnership by many years. It would be very damaging for US' vital interests, perhaps for decades to come," he remarked.
Blackwill is currently the president of Barbour Griffith and Rogers International, one of the top lobbying firms in the United States.
The former envoy said the issue of Pakistan getting a similar arrangement with the US is "not even a realistic part of the discussion" stressing that "not a single member" of the Nuclear Suppliers Group supports a similar agreement with Islamabad, making the point that the clandestine A.Q Khan network had sunk the chances of Pakistan, if there was any at all.
Blackwill, however, expressed his confidence that the US-India nuke deal will soon be successfully concluded with both sides fulfilling their part of the bargain.
"The Americans are preparing to introduce legislation while the Indians are working hard on a credible and transparent plan for the separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities and my impression is that the two actions would be completed in close proximity," Blackwill said in his address to the US-India Business Council.
Referring to criticism against the deal, Blackwill, who is said to be the architect of the deal signed by President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said one should not forget that it had been endorsed by none other than the International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohammed El Baradei.
"It is has the stamp of approval from the IAEA," he added.
He said China's growing power is a concern for India as well as the United States.
Blackwill said different elements of the civilian nuclear arrangement with India are not supposed to be a long drawn out affair and various elements involved in the arrangement such as separation of Indian civilian and nuclear facilities and discussions with the nuclear suppliers group are being done in "close proximity".
Assuring that this is not going to be a "long process", he said, "This is all going to happen in the next few months."
The issue of safeguards was being discussed and this was a practical one, he said adding, the practical issues could be sorted out by the International Atomic Energy Agency and India.
The former American envoy to New Delhi emphasised that the civilian nuclear energy agreement with India did not weaken the Non Proliferation Treaty or the non proliferation regimes as some critics contend and this will not lead to other nations like Iran and North Korea getting ideas or abandoning their policies.
"If India announces tomorrow that it is giving up all nuclear weapons, I don't think Iran is looking at New Delhi on how they proceed. The same is true of North Korea," he said adding, the NPT is not affected in any legal sense as a result of the US-India accord on civilian nuclear energy cooperation.
Blackwill placed the transformation in bilateral relations between the US and India in the broader diplomatic context stressing that the controversies surrounding the civilian nuclear accord should not be surprising given that it was an important departure in American and Indian foreign policies.
The disagreement and debate, Blackwill pointed out was very much in line with other major events in international politics such as the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Germany's participation in the Atlantic Alliance, Richard Nixon's detente with the erstwhile Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China and NAFTA.
"The rise of India as a great power and the transformation of US-India relationship is likely to have a great impact on the international system, greater than the events that I mentioned," Blackwill noted.
The American diplomat argued that both India and the US will be "attentive to the implications" of the rise of the power of China, but this did not mean containment.
"If China were to spite America and India and other powers and become aggreessive,our future would naturally gravitate to deal with it," he said.
With UNI inputs