Little Progress in US-India Nuclear Disarmament Talks

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - American and Indian officials appear to have made little progress in two days of talks on nuclear disarmament in London this week, analysts said. A joint statement issued after the conclusion of a ninth round of talks between Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott lacked the positive language heard after earlier rounds.

The statement spoke of the "need to make tangible progress" in the future. The two representatives are scheduled to meet again in January, as they try to make progress ahead of President Clinton's proposed visit to India early next year.

This week's talks were first since the US Senate refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which Washington has been pressing India to sign. (Russia this week announced it was ready to sign the treaty.) "They discussed issues related to disarmament and non-proliferation and focused, in particular, on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), control over exports of sensitive products and technologies, and issues related to defense posture," the joint statement said.

Former Indian diplomat and foreign policy analyst J. N. Dixit said the absence of "positive language" suggested that not much progress had been made. "However, the two leaders are optimistic of resolving their differences in the next round of meeting," he added.

Dixit said it was customary in such joint statements to use language indicating the level of progress made at the talks. After the last round of talks in New Delhi, he said, the two sides expressed their "satisfaction with the outcome of the talks," and said progress had been made in several of the areas under discussion, he noted.

In the new statement, Singh and Talbott said they hoped the Clinton visit "would provide the occasion to significantly improve mutual understanding and cooperation." Since India's nuclear tests in May last year, Washington and New Delhi have engaged in a prolonged series of arms controls talks aimed at reconciling U.S. non-proliferation concerns with Indian security interests.

The talks were held against the backdrop of Clinton's statement to Congress that non-proliferation dialogue between the U.S. and India had yielded "little progress." Clinton had said India's draft nuclear doctrine "suggests that India intends to make nuclear weapons an integral part of the national defense."

Citing regional threats, India insists on a minimum nuclear deterrent. It released a draft nuclear doctrine in August that envisaged a sophisticated arsenal of aircraft, vessel and land-based nuclear missiles.