India promises level playing field to US companies

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Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai
Washington, Feb 7: Promising to provide a level playing field to US companies on civilian nuclear deal, visiting Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said India is willing to address their specific concerns within the framework of the law in this regard passed by the Parliament.

"We will provide a level playing field to US companies, and are prepared to address specific concerns of US companies within the framework of that law," Mathai said in his address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"We have the reality of our law passed by our Parliament," Mathai said in his remarks on "Building on Convergence: Deepening the India-US Strategic Partnership" at the eminent Washington-based think tank.

India and the US, he said, have remained engaged and must now take practical steps to advance this cooperation, as they have done over the past year. "We have just had a round of discussions between our legal experts. The commencement of discussions between the Indian operator, NPCIL, and US companies in regard to an Early Works Agreement is an encouraging development," said Mathai, who is currently on his first visit to America after assuming the charge last year.

Referring to the statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said the India-US civil nuclear initiative is a symbol, instrument and platform of a transformed India-US relationship.

"We are committed to translating the success of our diplomatic partnership in changing the global nuclear order into an equally productive commercial cooperation in civil nuclear energy," he said.

On the first day of the Washington-trip, Mathai besides delivering remarks at CSIS, met officials at the Department of Commerce and the State Department. Today, he will continue with his meetings at the State Department and the White House.

Mathai said defence procurement in India has to be based on the best techno-economic choice, in accordance with procurement guidelines, and it must also meet the test of Parliamentary scrutiny on procurement process.

"It also bears repeating that our defense trade has gone from negligible levels a few years ago to a cumulative value of USD 9.0 billion in the last four-five years, and is set to expand further.

On both sides, we are making continuous progress in understanding each other's procurement and approval process; extending our engagement from simple trade to technology transfer and joint research, development and production," he said.

The foreign secretary said in the year since the India visit of US President Barack Obama the two countries have sustained an unprecedented level of bilateral engagement.

Since then the two countries have launched new strategic consultations that cover key regions of the world; begun their first trilateral consultation with Japan; advanced their cooperation on non-proliferation and nuclear security and deepened counter-terrorism and intelligence cooperation.

India and the US launched a new Homeland Security Dialogue; made steady progress in partnership on export controls, non-proliferation and nuclear security; concluded the largest defence deal yet, and sustained exercises and broadened defence strategic dialogue.

Mathai said the two nations have taken forward the incipient cooperation for development in third countries, especially Africa; held a very successful Higher Education Summit in Washington; and made innovation driven progress in areas such as clean energy, food security and healthcare.

"We resumed negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Treaty and expanded opportunities for economic cooperation through measures like the Infrastructure Debt Fund and tariff reductions on products with potential for bilateral trade," he said.

PTI

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