Journalist | Writer | Analyst
Details of the progress made or not being made by the Indian delegation in Washington are few and far between. The AFP story is headlined “US, India break ‘logjam’ in nuclear talks but final accord elusive”, and quotes U.S. Under secretary of State Nicholas Burns as saying
“We have overcome many of the outstanding issues. We just need to go the extra couple of feet… We are in an extra innings… We haven’t given up and I’m very hopeful we might have an agreement.”
As usual, K.P. Nayar of The Telegraph — a seasoned journalist who is their Washington bureau chief as well as foreign editor — has the most detailed reporting. His account of the Dick Cheney-M.K. Narayanan meeting is here. According to K.P.,
National security adviser M.K. Narayanan and foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon have bridged a significant gap in concluding the 123 Agreement with US Vice-President Dick Cheney extending “political support” to India’s right to reprocess spent fuel produced by any American reactors imported by New Delhi.
The finalisation of the 123 Agreement may, however, require at least another technical round of negotiations for such political support to be translated into an agreed text which will meet the requirements of America’s complex non-proliferation laws. In view of this, the talks in Washington this week on the nuclear deal ended without any press briefing by either the Americans or the Indian delegation.
The normally methodical Aziz Haniffa has a slightly confusing account of the pre-Cheney meeting state of play on rediff.com. What’s confusing is the distinction Aziz makes between India’s offer of a “permanently safeguarded reprocessing facility” to handle imported spent fuel and America’s apparent demand that such a facility be “internationally supervised”. Now permanent safeguards is tantamount to permanent international supervision (by the IAEA, of course). If Washington expects something more than that, the deal won’t move forward.
Finally, the Indian Express today leads with a story about “Washington accepting India’s proposal for a dedicated facility to store spent fuel and coming up with “forward-looking suggestions” to break the impasse on reprocessing rights”.
Since the vast acreage of spent fuel tanks at Tarapur is nothing but a glorified “dedicated facility to store spent fuel” and India has been unable to reprocess that material despite the “forward looking” language of the 1963 civil cooperation agreement, I don’t understand why India would be putting forward such a proposal at this time.