Washington, June 15: Perceptions seem to differ somewhat on two key take aways related to the just concluded India-US strategic dialogue here - a breakthrough agreement on the nuclear deal and exemption from Iran oil sanctions to India.
Both sides do look at the MoU signed between Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India as a “significant step toward the fulfilment of our landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton out it. But going by the comments of Clinton and other US officials it does not seem to have removed a major roadblock in the implementation of the 2008 nuclear deal as some observers have suggested as Washington still has a beef with the Indian nuclear liability law.
“No, this does not mean that issues with respect to the liability law have been resolved,” Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake told reporters on Thursday in a briefing on the dialogue. “But I think both of our countries wanted to show that we still share strong interest in seeing the commercial contracts come to fruition,” he said.
And signing of the MoU “will provide very concrete evidence of our intention to move forward” and from US perspective let American companies “develop very promising opportunities in what will be a $40 billion sector.” However, Indian officials suggested that the signing of the MoU has moved the issue from the political to the commercial dimension and it was now for the companies to work out within the ambit of the Indian law as New Delhi had suggested all along.
Similarly, on the issue of Iran oil sanctions, Blake asserted that “We are certainly not done with it.”
“The current exemptions granted to India and six other countries on the eve of the Washington dialogue are valid for six months only and countries around the world will have to continue to reduce their imports of oil from Iran,” he said. “There needs to be continued progress on it,” Blake said, “to keep the pressure on Iran to bring them to the negotiating table” and allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all relevant nuclear facilities.
Indian officials said they understood the US legal position, but believed that the exemption granted to India and others was on the basis of “significant reduction” of Iranian oil imports to a threshold level of around 15 per cent.
In any case, India’s oil imports were so diversified already with Iraq emerging as a major supplier that there is little danger of the sanctions coming back. (IANS)