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FBRs not to be put in civilian N-list, US told
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 9
India has never proposed or indicated to the US that it would put its Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) programme under the civilian list of nuclear facilities since the two countries are engaged in negotiations on implementation of the July 18 Indo-US Nuclear Agreement.

The Tribune understands that no responsible official of the Government of India has ever conveyed to the US about New Delhi’s readiness on putting FBRs under the civilian list.

When Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran shared with the Americans the Indian Government’s broad idea of separation of its civilian and military nuclear facilities during his visit to Washington last December, the FBRs were never put in the civilian list.

On their part, the Americans have so far never officially asked India to put FBRs under the civilian list. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, during his talks with the Shyam Saran-led Indian delegation here last month also did not convey Washington’s keenness that India throws open its FBR programme to international safeguards.

The political storm kicked off by Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar in a recent interview to The Indian Express wherein he has talked of the US trying to shift the goalposts for implementation of the July 18 deal is seen here by observers as sending a message to the US obliquely. The need for this had arisen when US Ambassador here David C Mulford and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made certain remarks which meant that India must put as many of its nuclear reactors under civilian list (which would put them under international safeguards) as possible. India at present has 22 nuclear reactors, inclusive of six which are in the pipeline.

The US has not lodged any protest with India on Mr Kakodkar’s remarks. Mr Kakodkar has already met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi in the past couple of days and a PMO official said the whole chapter was closed.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is again due to travel to Washington for holding further discussions with Mr Burns on implementation of the nuclear deal. No dates for the next round of rounds have been chalked out yet and it is not clear whether he would do so before or after President George W Bush visits India early next month.

The US has just raised the stakes for India for the implementation of the July 18 deal by offering to New Delhi the membership of Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). India has told the Americans that it would consider the proposal and asked for more details, including the financial obligations. The Americans have told the Indians that they have put aside 250 million dollars for GNEP this year. However, they have not told India how much New Delhi would have to pay for becoming a member of GNEP. 

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