India and the US on Thursday agreed to work together to secure Nuclear Suppliers Group's membership for New Delhi at the earliest. The two countries vowed to work towards this goal during their first 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held wide-ranging deliberations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis.
Addressing a joint press conference, Swaraj said the recent decision by the US to put India in the list of countries eligible for Strategic Trade Authorisation Tier-I License Exemption reflected India's robust and responsible export control policies.
“In our meeting today, we also agreed to work together to secure India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group at the earliest,” she said.
“The United States welcomed India's accession to the Australia Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Missile Technology Control Regime and reiterated its full support for India's immediate accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” a joint statement issued after the talks said.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is an elite club of countries that deals with the trade in nuclear technology and fissile materials. India's bid for entry into the 48-member NSG is being opposed by China citing that New Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Mike Pompeo, in his remarks, hailed the civil nuclear cooperation between the two countries as an important component of their strategic partnership.
“Today also marks another milestone for our relationship. Thanks to the intense advocacy from the US, 10 years ago today, the nuclear suppliers group voted to allow India to trade in civil nuclear materials and technologies.
“That vote and the subsequent section 123 civil nuclear agreement opened a path for our strategic relations to grow, bolster defence and commercial cooperation and expanded our people-to people ties,” Pompeo said.
Both sides were committed to the full implementation of the civil nuclear energy partnership and collaboration between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the establishment of six nuclear power plants in India, the statement said.
A defence pact was also inked today, in which, the US will provide critical and encrypted defence technologies to the Indian military. They have also discussed key issues, including cross-border terrorism and contentious H1B visa issue. The two countries have decided to set up hotlines between them.
Addressing the joint press conference, Swaraj expressed satisfaction over the agenda of the inaugural dialogue while giving the details of the deliberations.
While Pompeo termed the 'Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA)' agreement a ‘milestone’ in the relationship, Sitharaman asserted that the pact will enhance India's defence capability and preparedness.
The COMCASA will facilitate India to obtain critical defence technologies from the US, and access critical communication network to ensure interoperability between the US and the Indian armed forces.
It will also allow the installation of high-security US communication equipment on defence platforms being sourced from the US. Swaraj said, given strong bilateral ties, India has conveyed the US its expectation that they will not ‘act against’ interests of Indians while taking a decision on H1B visa issue.
(With inputs from agencies)
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