M A I N   N E W S

‘Final agreement’ on N-deal this month
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

The United States and India on Tuesday said they had made “extensive progress” in talks to iron-out differences over a civilian nuclear deal, and American officials expressed optimism that a “final agreement” would be reached later this month.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns on Tuesday wrapped up talks, which had started over dinner on Monday. Menon later said he was “happy” with the “very productive discussions.”

He added: “As far as I’m concerned, this is doable ... and we want to do it as quickly as possible.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a written statement saying the meetings “were positive and the US is encouraged by the extensive progress that was made on the issues.”

“We look forward to resolving the outstanding issues in the weeks ahead,” McCormack said, adding, Burns would visit India in the second half of May “to reach a final agreement.”

Menon also had an “excellent meeting” with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday.

In a notable about-face from their recent practice of venting frustrations in the press, both sides on Tuesday refused to divulge details of how seemingly insurmountable differences had been resolved overnight. The shroud of secrecy was the result of an understanding between both sides that public airing of grievances would only strengthen foes of the deal in Washington and New Delhi.

Going into the talks, major differences existed on the 123 agreement over nuclear testing and reprocessing rights. The draft says the US will cease nuclear cooperation with India, if India conducts a nuclear test. India also will not be allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. India, which has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and is under no legal obligation not to test, has opposed a testing ban.

In a report tabled in Parliament in New Delhi last week, Menon assured critics of the deal that, “Whatever we do with the US will not affect our nuclear strategic programme.”

McCormack, who spoke with Burns following the under secretary’s dinner meeting with Menon on Monday, said the foreign secretary had come to Washington with “some constructive ideas.”

Before the agreement is implemented the US Congress must ratify the final terms of the deal; the International Atomic Energy Agency has to approve a separate nuclear inspection programme; and the Nuclear Suppliers Group has to approve the deal.

Some members of Congress ratcheted up their criticism of the agreement even as Menon was meeting with Burns. They also expressed concern about India’s ties with Iran.



Reprocessing rights: DAE wants provision
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 2
Even as the department of atomic energy (DAE) underlined the need for reprocessing rights in all future bilateral nuclear deals, a parliamentary committee stressed that the DAE must ensure that the country pursues its nuclear activities — whether civilian or military — in keeping with its national interests. Supporting the civilian-nuclear deal with the US, the committee favoured the continuance of nuclear research in strategic and civilian fields. The DAE told the committee overseeing the demands for grants of the DAE that “we need to have explicit provision enabling reprocessing in all bilateral cooperation agreements which India might enter into in the future.”

The DAE believes that the pursuit of closed fuel cycle is a matter of policy for India as it assures fuel resource sustainability and provides for credible waste management by reducing the volume of waste.

The committee noted, considering the fast depleting conventional sources of energy, that the agreement with the United States would result in a quantum jump in the country's nuclear energy generating capacity and provide much-needed energy security.

The committee called for intensifying research in the nuclear sphere and said India should be able to join the international mainstream and occupy its rightful place among the top nuclear countries.

The three-stage nuclear programme aims at deriving maximum benefit from nuclear fuel resources available in the country. The first stage comprises the pressurised heavy water reactor technology which has reached a level of maturity and the plants using the technology are operating at high availability factors.

The committee has taken taken note of the DAE having begun construction of 500 MW prototype Fast Breeder Reactors after completing the necessary research and development work. At the same time, there is need to sustain work across the research, development, demonstration and deployment chain, in respect of technologies required for the second and third stages.

The DAE informed the committee that the country's development programme had no parallel elsewhere and therefore programmes leading to commercially robust technology in an autonomous manner must be maintained.



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