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India, US start talks on 123 agreement
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
India and the US today began discussions on technical aspects of the civilian nuclear cooperation, which once completed will pave the way for launch of formal negotiations between them on 123 bilateral agreement.

S. Jaishanker, presently Indian high commissioner in Singapore, heads the Indian team, while Richard Stratfor, director in energy department, is heading the US delegation.

Jaishanker was joint secretary (Americas) in the ministry of external affairs here and is considered an expert on the subject. That is why he has been roped in these technical discussions.

The discussions, which will continue tomorrow, are being held against the backdrop of two draft proposals from the US, which, among other things, mandated that India would not be able to carry out any further nuclear tests. There are no takers for this hard-line position in New Delhi even if it means that the deal was to fall through.

New Delhi’s position is that it has unilaterally declared a moratorium on further nuclear tests and it cannot be dictated by foreign powers on core security issues as nuclear tests.

Then there is another problem clause in the US Atomic Energy Act. Subsection 123 a.(4) of the act states “… except in the case of those agreements for cooperation with nuclear-weapon states, a stipulation that the United States shall have the right to require the return of any nuclear materials and equipment transferred pursuant thereto and any special nuclear material produced through the use thereof if the cooperating party detonates a nuclear explosive device.”

Noted strategic affairs expert K. Subrahmanyam, who headed a government committee on evaluating Indo-US relations and gave his recommendations to the government recently, told this correspondent that the 123 agreement negotiations between India and the US were going to be a long haul. He pointed out that the Americans took 10 and 14 years with Japan and China, respectively.

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