WASHINGTON: The United States has denied reports that it was trying to link the Bhopal gas tragedy with India-US investment ties by suggesting a "lot of noise" over the issue could have a "chilling effect" on them.
"The assertion that there was linkage between two separate and distinct issues is wrong, is incorrect," Benjamin Chang, Deputy Spokesperson of the National Security Council in the White House, stated.
"We certainly recognize the importance and sensitivity of this issue in India. We are committed to building a strong, broad and deep relationship between our two countries," he said.
Chang was commenting on an Indian news report that US Deputy National Security Advisor, Michael Froman had made such a suggestion in an email to the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
According to the Indian news report, responding to Ahluwalia's request for US support in getting World Bank loans, Froman wrote: "While I've got you, we are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemicals issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully."
"I am not familiar with all the details but I think we want to avoid developments which put chilling effect on our investment relationship," the e-mail added.
Chang, however, declined to go into the contents of the e-mail exchange saying, "We are not going to comment on the specific contents on emails." But added any effort to conclude that there is any linkage between two separate issues is wrong.
Officials also pointed out that the US has supported India's position at the World Bank affiliate International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) as requested in the purported e-mail from Ahluwalia.
The plan panel chief had apparently asked Forman to speak with his colleagues at the US Treasury for supporting New Delhi as India had hit the limit set at the World Bank that would force it to cut its credit line to New Delhi drastically unless the limit was relaxed.
In New Delhi too officials have pointed out that Ahluwalia had already explained he was not connected in any manner with the process being followed on the Bhopal disaster case, including then Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson's extradition.
Twenty-five years ago, on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, at least 3,500 people were killed instantly and thousands more later after a deadly gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. Union Carbide was subsequently acquired by Dow Chemicals.