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Mulford urges Obama to complete nuclear deal formalities

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February 27, 2009 14:00 IST

David C Mulford, who will soon vacate his post as United States'ambassador to India, has urged the Obama administration to ensure the implementation of the India-US civilian nuclear agreement.

In an interaction at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, Mulford said, "The nuclear deal may be completed, but the work isn't done. There is unfinished business there to be done."

"This is going to be an issue of prime importance," he predicted. 

Mulford acknowledged that both countries had other priorities to deal with. "First of all, India has things to do and they have indicated that they are ready now to complete the Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency. They are also getting close to finalising their ideas about a site for US nuclear companies. That's very important."

He said that since sites have already been allocated for French and Russian companies, "there is certain restlessness in the US industry."

Mulford felt that "there is a need to address the so-called liability issue. India has indicated it will do that, but it has also indicated that it will not do it until after the election."

He predicted, "That is likely to be a quite sensitive process. They have to work that through their system and it is something that in the long-run US companies will need before they can compete effectively on that field."

"There are also, of course, licensing issues in both countries and there are rather technical matters, but in the United States that is done by the Department of Energy. There is a process of getting comfortable with this new arrangement because it was not without controversy," he said.

Mulford added, "One hopes that the licensing process in both sides will be able to go forward smoothly so that no time is lost, because India is going to be the home, in my view, of a major civil nuclear industry that will involve colossal investment potential, both in India and from outside."

He said it should be lost on anyone that "it is happening, as it happens at a time when stimulating economies in the West is important -- these are important business opportunities. They take a long time to develop and that they are major investment opportunities that create jobs in India as well as in other countries."

"So, it's important from an economic standpoint to see it move forward," he added.

Mulford, evidently sensitive to the fissures that are being predicted between the Obama administration and India, had stated earlier, "In my opinion, the India-US relationship is likely to prove durable and sustainable and unlikely to revert, as it has in the past, to its older format."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC