M A I N   N E W S

Indo-US talks to focus on fast breeder reactors
Not to be put on civilian list, says PM’s Scientific Adviser
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 22
As United States’ Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns begins his crucial round of two-day talks here with senior Indian officials on the Indo-US nuclear deal tomorrow, the UPA government today upped its ante on the sensitive issue of India’s fast breeder reactors (FBRs).

It is becoming increasingly likely that it would be Washington, rather than India, which will blink first on the issue of FBRs.

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told the Lok Sabha in a written reply today that India would separate its nuclear facilities voluntarily, based on the country’s national interests. He said the government had seen reports of nuclear experts and former diplomats expressing a wide variety of views on the extent and implications of the separation of Indian nuclear facilities. The Minister said the government had consulted all relevant organisations in addressing the issue of separation.

Significantly, the Minister also said that the government was engaged in a dialogue with several countries, including France, Russia and Canada who have agreed on the need to have full international civilian nuclear cooperation with India.

It is understood that the focus of talks of Mr Burns with the Indian delegation led by Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran will be on FBRs and some other contentious issues related to the ongoing separation exercise. Mr Burns, who arrived here late tonight from Russia and Austria would have discussions to advance the new strategic partnership between the two countries and prepare for President George W Bush's visit to India.

In another development, the Prime Minister’s Scientific Adviser Professor C N Rao was quoted by PTI as saying that the country’s FBRs could not be put on the civilian list and India could opt out of the July 18 deal if it went against the national interest. “Who said we are going to put the FBRs in the civilian side? We cannot and will not do so,” the wire service quoted him as saying.

Mr Rao said India could not be forced to accept the July 18 deal, but added that the stage for saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ had not come yet.

“Who said we are going to put the FBRs in the civilian side? We cannot and will not do so,” he told PTI emphasising that such installations are “our own creations” and could not be opened up to international scrutiny.

He said there is a clause in the deal which says that India can say no in the end if negotiations fail.


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