Government on Sunday insisted that the civil nuclear deal with the US was "much better" than that "anticipated" but admitted that certain Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) countries could pose some difficulties to the agreement in the 45-nation grouping.
Maintaining that the agreement concluded last week fulfils "all commitments" made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the UPA government also gave credit to his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee for ensuring such cooperation with the US.
<b1>"What we have got is an agreement between India and US for civil nuclear co-operation that involves nuclear reactors and various aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle," National Security Adviser MK Narayanan said in Karan Thapar's 'India Tonight' programme.
"We also got a commitment saying this is an agreement between states with advanced nuclear technologies with the same benefits and advantages," he said, adding that "in a comprehensive sense, I think it is an all-encompassing kind of a statement, which I think should make me sustain all that we wished to have."
Asked whether it was a "good" or "the best" deal India has got, Narayanan replied "there's always scope for improvement, I suppose but it was much better than what we anticipated. So I presume it is somewhere between the best and good."
With the conclusion of the civil nuclear deal, New Delhi will now have to negotiate an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. "This should certainly not take a year. It may take weeks or may be a few months at the very best," Narayanan said.
Asked about India's next step of convincing the NSG to ensure that it allows international community to have nuclear cooperation with New Delhi and whether reservations by members like Austria, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway and possibly even Japan could become stumbling blocks, Narayanan said "it could."
He, however, said that the US had promised to lobby, besides a number of other countries, including Russia, the UK and France have offered to help.
<b2>"We are very clear that no post-conditions, as they are generally referred to, would be agreed to by us, unless it's something that is minimal because I think what we are seeking a clean exemption from the NSG," the NSA said.
He said the "personal chemistry" between the Prime Minister and US President George W Bush had played a crucial role in realisation of the deal.
Asked whether any credit would be given to Vajpayee since he had started the process, Narayanan responded "Oh yes, most certainly. I think the process would never have taken off, but for Mr Vajpayee and the team."
He referred to the recent meeting between Singh and Vajpayee and said the discussion started from this point. On whether India has got the right to reprocess in a manner it can accept, the NSA said "it is upfront, advanced consent."
He noted that India has offered to put in a dedicated national facility all the fuel that the US would supply as also the fuel New Delhi would get from other countries.
This is to "remove any concerns they might have about the fuel going anywhere other than what they wish to send," he added.
Narayanan said it was an important assurance which satisfied the Americans and presumably enabled India get the prior consent right on reprocessing.
With regard to fall-back safeguards in the event that the IAEA is unable, for whatever reason, to safeguard Indian facilities, Narayanan "we have taken that contingency into consideration and if and when such a situation were to arise. If such an eventuality were to occur then both the supplier and the recipient would get together and decide what procedures are necessary."
Asked whether there was any possibility of American or any other national inspectors "trampling over our territory", Narayanan said "what we are trying to be as true to our commitment is that there will be safeguards in perpetuity. If for some reason it breaks down, we are willing to look at what other verification measures we should think of."
To a question about India's right to carry out further nuclear test if it deems that it is in its national interest to do so, Narayanan said the issue "just did not come into the debate at all" in the entire 123 negotiations with the US which was only about civil nuclear co-operation.
Asked whether India's concerns with regard to right to build strategic reserves of nuclear fuel had been addressed in the 123 agreement, Narayanan said "I think, as far as we are concerned, on the text, we will not leave any room for doubts on this point."
He said India had got "multi-layered assurances" on fuel reserves. On the issue of the US having right to return of nuclear fuel and technology if the 123 agreement comes to be terminated, the NSA said, "If you see the text, and look at it with no degree of prejudice, you would see that we have got a fairly comfortable position as far as immunisation of India's strategic reserves is concerned."
When referred to concerns that the Obama amendment would restrict or in some way undermine India's right to build up strategic reserves, Narayanan said the US would have to adhere to the Hyde Act while India will "adhere to what we have got in the 123 agreement".
He said India proceeded with the negotiations on the basis that "we would not ask the United States to either break or bend the laws beyond a point. But where (if) it is a policy issue, we will push them."
He did not deny when referred to press reports that the Americans have agreed to help India build strategic reserves, have committed themselves to the continuous operation of the Indian reactors and will only take back fuel which has been supplied to India by America, once India has had the chance to make alternate arrangements to replace it.