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N-deal: Menon leaves for US
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon left today morning for a visit to the US to explore whether New Delhi and Washington can still be on the same page on their bilateral nuclear deal.

Menonís talks with American officials are scheduled for April 30-May 1. His most important meeting will be with the under secretary of the state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns, for discussions on India-US bilateral agenda, including the bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement.

New Delhi is maintaining a stony silence on the nuclear deal, which has run into major problems. The Indian Government, however, is confident that both sides concerned are keen on navigating the deal to its successful implementation.

The Indian Government does not make much of some hard statements made by Nicholas Burns and other American officials wherein these officials aired their exasperation at Indians allegedly going slow in their negotiations with Washington as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

New Delhiís perception is that such statements are nothing but posturing, a familiar diplomatic tool.

The two governments are keen that the 123 agreement is signed by India and the US before President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009.

It is understood that India would stick to its unflinching stand on two core issues.

One, India, whose suo motu declared a moratorium on further tests after the 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear tests, cannot be tethered to a bilateral commitment on the same.

This means that the American proposal to incorporate a clause that the US will stop all nuclear cooperation with India in the event of a fresh Indian nuclear test would be unacceptable to India.

New Delhi views the American proposition as nothing but a back door Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that India refused to sign long ago. The US itself has not signed the CTBT, nor has Pakistan, Indiaís major concern.

Secondly, New Delhi is not prepared to accept American refusal to allow India to reprocess US-origin spent fuel.

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