As expected Samuel Bodman, the US Energy Secretary, has carried some heavy water while visiting India this week. He lodged formal objections to a proposed gas pipeline between India and Iran. He also told critics of U.S. policies regarding nuclear fuel reprocessing he was offering that country an opportunity they should not dismiss.Reuters reports that Bodman objected to cooperation between India, Iran and other nations on developing Tehran's gas and oil assets would help the Islamic nation's nuclear weapons.
"There have been conversations ... and if that is allowed to go forward, in our judgment, this will contribute to development of nuclear weapons," he told reporters in Mumbai at the end of a three-day visit to India.
Relations between the U.S. and India were boosted by a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in 2005. Bodman's objections to the gas pipeline got lots of press in India, but there has been little notice of it in the U.S. news media.
Bodman also told his hosts in India the pipeline issue would not materially affect US relations with that country or prospects for US firms to build energy projects there. He said, "We are focusing on developing civil nuclear cooperation. That is my primary focus (of visiting India). That is why I came here."
Bodman visited the two nuclear reactors at the Tarapur plant, some 100 km south of Mumbai, and held round table discussions on Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation with the members of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
On the nonproliferation issue the United States and India agreed a year ago that the U.S. would supply the Indians with civilian nuclear technology, but the deal still faces significant obstacles.
The agreement would clear the way for U.S. sales of nuclear reactors and fuel to India for the first time in more than three decades, and India needs the technology. The country is faced with a critical shortage of electricity at a time when its economy is growing by about nine percent a year.
U.S. diplomatic sources say an influential group of Indian nuclear scientists and leftist politicians does not like some of the terms the U.S. insists on. These include no reprocessing of spent fuel by India, and no diversion of materials supplied by the United States to military use. The critics say the U.S. terms infringe on Indian sovereignty.
Those objections did not cut any ice with the Energy Secretary who stuck to his rhetorical guns.
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told Indian business leaders Tuesday that the critics are wrong.
"This should not be viewed as a threat in any way to India's sovereignty or its national [nuclear] program," said Samuel Bodman. "The opposite is true. It is a major opportunity."
Translation - this is an carrot. Any mention of a "stick" is left unspoken. Clearly Bodman want's the nuclear deal with India to work.