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N-fuel: India firm on reprocessing

Mumbai, March 18
Ahead of the talks on an agreement to operationalise the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, New Delhi has said the Hyde Act “significantly deviates” from the July 18, 2005, understanding and emphasised that it wants its concerns explicitly addressed.

Making it clear that India would retain full privileges outlined in the July 18, 2005, joint statement and the March, 2006, separation plan, the country’s top nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar said if the deal does not go through, New Delhi has other options. He said India had already made its concerns known to the US and emphasised the issue of reprocessing of spent fuel is “non-negotiable”.

“We want reprocessing rights upfront... Reprocessing is a non-negotiable right,” the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman told PTI, six days ahead of the expert-level discussions here on the 123 Agreement that will operationalise the civil nuclear deal.

Retaining full privileges as laid out in joint statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush on July 18, 2005, and the separation plan of March 2006, “India wants all these to be explicitly addressed,” said Kakodkar, who has been closely involved in firming up of the deal.

Kakodkar said that India’s position was always guided by the July 18, 2005 statement and March, 2006 understanding, “but the Hyde Act (passed by US Congress in December) deviates significantly from that.”

“We expect the negotiators to respect the joint statement of July 18 and March, 2006, separation plan and proceed further by taking into account India’s concerns which arose after the Hyde Act (that gave US legislative nod to the deal),” Kakodkar said.

If the 123 Agreement does not go through, India has other options, “but this will definitely be a setback for the nuclear business community which is aggressively pushing for the deal,” he observed.

Asked when the crucial negotiations on the deal enabling agreement are going to recommence, the top scientist said: “Both India and US are studying the drafts carefully and serious negotiations will begin fairly soon.”

About the Hyde Act’s stand on ban on conducting atomic tests, he noted “India had declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests, but that cannot become a bilateral legality.”

He, however, pointed out that the Prime Minister has repeatedly assured Parliament that concerns of a section of scientists over the Act will be addressed.

Kakodkar reminded that Bush, during his India visit in March last year, had expressed commitment to the July, 2005, statement and assured the country the supply of uranium in perpetuity in exchange of safeguards for imported civilian nuclear reactors.

He said India would remain firm and not settle for anything less than the terms outlined in the joint statement and the separation plan even though New Delhi had not been recognised as a N-weapon state.

Asked about the frequent visits of US businessmen to India over the past three months, he said: “They are exploring different challenges and possibilities” in the field of nuclear commerce. — PTI

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