Uncertainty over Burns’ visit to clinch nuclear deal

By Arun Kumar


Support TwoCircles

Washington : The US has injected an element of uncertainty into the India trip this week of its key negotiator on the civil nuclear deal, Nicholas Burns, indicating that differences still persist over the implementing 123 agreement.

"Well, Nick, as far as I know, was on the plane with the Secretary (of State Condoleeza Rice) headed to Berlin for G-8 meetings," State department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters Tuesday in response to a question about Burns' trip.

"And as far as I know, while he's spoken about his willingness to go on to India if it's appropriate to continue those discussions on India's nuclear deal, I don't believe that he's scheduled a trip there as of yet," he said.

Asked if Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, is just coming back from Europe after the Berlin trip, Casey said, "At this point, I certainly know if there is a reason for him to go later this week or next week, then he will certainly do so.

"I know originally, they were hoping to have him go out somewhere in the next couple of weeks, but there's no confirmed travel plans at this point," he said.

Reports from New Delhi earlier had suggested that Burns will be there Thursday on a two-day visit in a bid to put back on track the talks to clinch the 123 pact to open nuclear commerce between India and the US.

Burns, who was earlier expected to visit India in mid-May after Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon's visit here raised hopes that the deal may be closed by month end, put it off indefinitely as the 123 agreement was still a "work in progress".

Speculation about the trip was revived after Indian and US technical experts held two-day talks on the nuclear deal in London May 21-22 during which India clarified its concepts on key issues like nuclear testing and demand for access to reprocessing technologies.

Renewed uncertainty surrounding the Burns' visit indicates that the two sides may find it hard to clinch the 123 agreement before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush meet on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Germany early next month.