M A I N   N E W S

123 Agreement
Reprocessing of spent fuel
Nothing short of ‘upfront consent’ acceptable: India
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 3
India has hard talked to the United States in the past three days on the 123 agreement and conveyed its bottomline approach that nothing short of Washington’s “upfront consent” on reprocessing of spent fuel will be acceptable to New Delhi.

A top official of the government told The Tribune today that the reprocessing issue was the major bone of contention between India and the US that remained to be sorted out. Besides, there were two or three “smaller issues”. The official declined to name the “smaller issues”.

It is understood that another point of difference between India and the US is Washington’s continued insistence that India’s voluntary moratorium on testing nuclear weapons should be converted into a legally binding commitment. Simply put, this American requirement means that the United States could withdraw nuclear fuel supplies if India decided to test another nuclear weapon.

The Indian position is that it cannot turn its unilateral moratorium into a legally binding commitment because New Delhi’s decision to conduct tests will solely be determined by extraneous factors, beyond India’s controls. If India’s immediate neighbours like China and Pakistan were to conduct nuclear tests, it would be next to impossible for India to stick to its moratorium.

The Indian position was conveyed to visiting under secretary of states for political affairs Nicholas Burns, who left here last night for Washington after his three-day-long talks with the Indians failed to throw up a ready-for-signing text of the 123 agreement.

Asked if there were any chances of the logjam breaking the next week in Germany when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush meet on the sidelines of G-8 summit, the official replied, “Why next week? We are ready for the agreement even earlier than that if all our concerns are met.”

Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, who led four rounds of formal talks with Burns in the past three days, exuded confidence last evening that the Americans had assured that there was nothing in the Hyde Act that prevented the US from implementing its commitments.

While the 123 agreement text was still being fine-tuned by the two sides, New Delhi was not willing to set any timeline for the operationlisation of the civil nuclear cooperation.



N-deal on track: Pranab
Tribune News Service

Shimla, June 3
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherji today asserted that the Indo-US nuclear deal had not hit any roadblock and said that contentious issues were being resolved through negotiation.

He said certain legal constraints still existed on the part of the US Administration. Moreover, the deal had to be finalised within the framework of July 18,2005, agreement and the March 6,2006, separation plan to as committed to Parliament.

Efforts were on to settle the issues through negotiations and he expressed hope that the outstanding questions would be resolved to pave the way for the final agreement. He said it would not be possible to give any timeframe for the conclusion of the deal.

Regarding the talks with Pakistan he said the discussions were on within the framework of a composite dialogue. The Kashmir issue was a key component of the composite dialogue. Replying to a question on the demilitarisation of Kashmir he said there was no militarisation, it was a question of maintaining law and order.



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