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123: Reprocessing of fuel rights must, says Pranab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 10
According reprocessing of fuel rights to India was absolute necessary for the 123 agreement with the USA to go through thereby enabling nuclear commerce in the civilian sphere.

Making it clear that India is not willing to make compromises on the reprocessing front as well as its indigenous strategic nuclear energy programme, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee told Karan Thapar in an interview on CNN-IBN telecast tonight that the reprocessing right would be unique to this country as a de facto nuclear state which had not signed the NPT.

The minister also underlined the need for immunity to the strategic fuel reserve India will build from the US proposed right-to-return clause in the 123 agreement envisaging return of nuclear equipment and fuel back to Washington if it tests a nuclear device.

“Reprocessing is absolute necessary for us to avoid a repetition of Tarapur leading to disruption of fuel and disposal of spent fuel after the USA unilaterally discontinued fuel supplies to the Tarapur Atomic Power Plant in 1980.”

Mukherjee emphasised that what has been in the Joint Statement of 2005 and subsequently in March last year as well as the commitment made to Parliament, the USA is already aware of it.

“Therefore, it is within these parameters that the 123 agreement will have to be signed.”

Asked if India will agree to the same terms as Japan, Switzerland and the European Atomic Energy Committee have accepted, Mukherjee drew attention to certain aspects to be kept in mind. India is not a signatory to the NPT. The arrangement with the USA has necessarily to be Indian specific.

The terms and conditions offered to China are not acceptable where if permission is not given within six months, Beijing acquires automatic interim right of reprocessing. The minister made it clear such an arrangement would not be acceptable.

Hopeful that the Indo-US nuclear deal will go through amid tough negotiations, Mukherjee’s observations assume importance with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledging yesterday that some tough negotiations remained.

He drew pointed attention to the positive feelings of the US President George Bush towards India and feels a sense of ownership of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

The two leaders believe that the 123 deal was doable.

Mukerhjee was optimistic that despite the serious differences on reprocessing, the USA and India would be able to find some way out in reaching a bilateral 123 pact paving the way for civilian nuclear cooperation.

Importantly, the reprocessing infrastructure is not presently listed on the civilian side in the March 2006 separation plan proposed by India.

It seems India wants a middle way to assure the USA that such reprocessed fuel will not be diverted to its military facilities.

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