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Indian officials say they will not makke undue haste in concluding the 123 agreement and are looking at August as a possible deadline for agreement rather than the next few days.
2 June 2007
Nuclear talks to enter third day
New Delhi: Negotiations between India and the United States over the terms of their proposed nuclear cooperation agreement will carry on for a third day, official sources said on Friday night.
Senior officials were extremely guarded in their comments about how Friday’s technical round of talks had gone. Asked whether there was the likelihood of a breakthrough on Saturday, one highly placed Indian source told The Hindu , “Several issues are being sorted out one by one, hopefully.”
While declining to provide details of the actual negotiations, another official said the Indian and American sides differed over the interpretation of the July 2005 agreement, with the U.S. negotiators taking the position that since the reprocessing of spent fuel did not explicitly figure in that joint statement, their Government was not obliged to accommodate the Indian demand for consent rights. On their part, Indian negotiators emphasised the fact that reprocessing was an integral part of the “full civil nuclear cooperation” the statement spoke of, as well as of the benefits that all countries “with advanced nuclear technology” were entitled to.
As for the U.S. insistence on including a “right of return” over any nuclear equipment or material in the event of an Indian nuclear test, the Indian side is insistent that this “right” cannot apply to any fuel supplies provided, including a strategic reserve.
Without prejudice to the outcome of Saturday’s interaction, senior officials told The Hindu that India was not going to make undue haste in concluding the `123 negotiations’ in time for the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the G-8 outreach meeting at Heilingendamm next week.
“We have been informed that Mr. Bush will leave Germany earlier than scheduled, so there will hardly be time for anything other than a very brief meeting between Dr. Singh and the U.S. President,” a highly placed source said. “Of course, we hope to register substantial progress in this round itself but, in general, we are aiming at August, so that the 123 agreement is in place when Congress comes back from its summer recess.”
On Friday evening, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns — the Bush administration’s point man for seeing the nuclear deal with India through — held a lengthy meeting with National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan at the latter’s office in the PMO. Others present at the parley were Department of Atomic Energy Chairman Anil Kakodkar and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.
Mr. Burns also separately met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister of State in the MEA Anand Sharma. According to MEA sources, though the U.S. side would like Mr. Burns to pay a “courtesy call” on Dr. Singh, the Ministry had not cleared the meeting as of Friday night and was unlikely to do so on Saturday.