Shivshankar Menon: Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
I am very happy to be here with Under Secretary of State Burns.
We have had a very productive day today. We have had a series of talks right through the day where we reviewed the development of our bilateral relations between India and the US. We also discussed regional issues. In the afternoon, he held discussions with PM’s Special Envoy Shyam Saran on the civil nuclear agreement that we have between India and the US.
The atmosphere throughout was very positive, very constructive, very forward looking. During the bilateral review we naturally reviewed the state of implementation of the 18th July (2005) and 2nd March (2006) Joint Statements. The last year or so has seen an unprecedented engagement both in terms of depth, in terms of levels, in terms of the wide range of subjects which we have covered between the US and India. So, our job was really quite easy. We noted the progress in all the areas, in trade, in the economy, in energy, in agriculture, IPR issues, space, high-tech, defence, global issues, it really was quite a wide ranging discussion. We are working now on initiatives in each and every one of these fields. We also discussed expanding the horizon of cooperation and look forward to the next year and we hope to continue these discussions today and tomorrow while Under Secretary Burns is here with us here in India.
We also covered regional and international issues where we discussed questions relating to South Asia, to West Asia, and also decided to step up our cooperation in counter-terrorism, an area where we have a clear common interest. In the afternoon when Mr. Shyam Saran was there he discussed the implementation of the nuclear understandings that we have arrived at between India and the US. Of course, we are awaiting the outcome of the Congressional deliberations. We do not have the text yet of the Bill but Mr. Burns is good enough to give us an idea, a sense of what is happening in Washington.
Overall, at the end of the day I would say that India-US relations are in a process of transformation. The nuclear cooperation is just one part of this overall transformation in the relationship which we are very satisfied and we are looking forward to continuing this. Our conversations today with Under Secretary Burns give us confidence that this will continue. I would now invite him to say a few words to you and then we will both take questions.
Nicholas Burns: Foreign Secretary, thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be back in Delhi and in India, and it is a pleasure to be with you and to accept your invitation to participate in this strategic dialogue. Foreign Secretary and I are new partners and we have had an excellent day, a day of very friendly, very productive discussions on our bilateral relationship. We began to talk about the wider region and some global issues which we will continue to discuss this evening and again tomorrow.
But I would characterize this period as a period of, a time of great accomplishment in US-India relations, a time of some success and I think some optimism about the future of this relationship. It has been a year and half since Prime Minister Singh came to Washington for that historic meeting on July 18, 2005 with President Bush and the two leaders established an ambitious framework for this relationship. The Foreign Secretary and I are trying to help our two Governments fulfill that vision, and I think in large part we are doing it.
You know that we have just had the largest ever US trade
delegation to India just in the last week. We have had our Agriculture Secretary
here, to talk about an initiative very important to both our countries, but
particularly to the Indian Prime Minister, to see if United States and India can
combine again on a second Green Revolution as we did forty to fifty years ago on
We have also had a delegation just recently led by our Under Secretary of Defence to see if we can chart better and greater military cooperation between our two Governments. All of this speaks to a relationship that is, as the Foreign Secretary says, under significant and positive transformation from the American point of view. We are very pleased about all this cooperation.
We also tried to look ahead today to 2007 and 2007 is going to be a very active year in the US-India relationship. We want to see and to conclude of course all the implementing steps in the civil nuclear accord. We want to fulfill the mandate of Prime Minister Singh and President Bush from March 2, 2006. This extraordinary number of joint ventures from agriculture to education, to space cooperation and space launch, to trade, to the CEO forum, all of the different measures that are transforming this relationship into, for the United States, one of our most important global partnerships - strategic partnerships.
As the Foreign Secretary said, we need to look at areas where we can do more together. Certainly, counter-terrorism is an area where India and the United States face very similar threats where unfortunately and tragically Indian citizens have been killed in terrorist attacks, and the same is true for my country. We want to be a good friend and supporter of India in this round and we wanted to chart a new era of cooperation on counter-terrorism.
We also, of course, are partners for peace and for stability. I look forward to talking to the Foreign Secretary this evening and tomorrow about what we can do together to bring peace and help to bring peace to Sri Lanka, and stability to Bangladesh, and peace in Nepal. Certainly the United States will always encourage and always support steps by India and Pakistan to bring that relationship to one of closer cooperation. So, it has been a very good day.
I would like to say a word about the civil nuclear accord. This has occupied a lot of our time over the last year and a half. It is a pleasure to talk to the Foreign Secretary and a pleasure to see Shyam Saran again and to speak to him. As the Foreign Secretary said, our Congress has been meeting over the last two weeks to put the two Bills that have been passed by historically large margins in the House by over 380 votes in the Senate, 85 to 12, to put them together into one final Bill, what we call a Conference Bill, that we hope and expect will be voted upon in the next thirty six hours or so. That Bill will then be sent to President Bush, and I am sure that he will be very pleased to sign that Bill into law.
Since we have not seen the text of the Bill, the Congress has not yet sent it to our Administration, I could not comment on the details because we have not seen them. But I would say this. Based on my own interaction with Members of Congress and their staff over the last two weeks, I anticipate a very successful and supportive Bill. I think the Bill that will emerge will support the agreements of July 18, 2005 and March 2006. It will be, in my judgment, well within the parameters of the agreement that we made between our two leaders in March 2006 and again in July 2005. It will be a Bill that will allow us to look towards 2007 and to complete all the necessary steps - the bilateral civil nuclear accord, the 123 agreement, of course, the provisions that India must undertake with the IAEA, etc., - so that we can put into place we hope as quickly as possible in the coming year a full agreement and actually have the United States and our companies here assisting India to develop its civil nuclear sphere.
It will be a tremendous achievement for both countries, I would say historic. From an American point of view it is particularly significant because it is a very strong bipartisan agreement, by the President’s party, the Republican Party, and by the Democratic Party and its leaders in the Congress.
While we have not seen the final Bill, I am very optimistic. It is going to put it in a very good place and we look forward to seeing it and then discussing it with the Indian Government and having our Congress move ahead.