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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Govt sets up task force to firm up N-positions

Nilova Roy Chaudhury, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 10, 2007
First Published: 21:29 IST(10/6/2007) | Last Updated: 21:35 IST(10/6/2007)

To ensure that negotiators at various forums know what the country's official line is on a host of issues like non-proliferation, missile defence and fissile materials, the government has set up a task force so that India adopts a uniform, informed position.

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While several officials are questioning the need for such a committee at this time, with India in the midst of complicated negotiations on the 123 Agreement with the United States on the right to reprocess spent fuel and offering to set up a dedicated reprocessing facility for imported fuel, committee members say it is timely and needed, given that India is increasing its stake in these issues globally.

The aim, a former diplomat said, is to review India's position on all security-related and strategic issues and ensure they are relevant and accurately reflected in the variety of ongoing negotiations, including the India-US civil nuke deal.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon has notified the recently-constituted task force on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

The committee, which has just moved its offices from South Block to Akbar Bhavan, will report its recommendations directly to him.

The three-member task force is chaired by security expert K Subrahmanyam and includes Shyam Saran, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, and Arundhati Ghose, former ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament.

The task force will work in close consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), with the Additional Secretary heading the Policy Planning Division doubling up as the committee's member secretary.

The government is in crucial discussions to bring the 123 Agreement, required to operationalise the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, to closure and it is important that safeguards being discussed correctly reflect India's status as a nuclear weapons power.

According to a committee member, who did not want to be identified, the aim of the committee/task force is to correct anomalies that have crept into the government's negotiating stances at various forums.

The demand for such a committee has long been felt, a former diplomat said.

"We are not deciding strategy," a task force member said. "We are not involved in any bilateral discussions. What we are doing is ensuring that negotiators take uniform positions. India has a policy," the member said.

"This policy should be correctly reflected in the positions we take. The positions taken at various forums, for example on fissile materials or missile defence should not affect our credibility."

Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State John C Rood will lead a delegation to India on June 13-14 to continue the long-standing dialogue between the two countries on non-proliferation and security issues.

He will meet with officials from India's Ministry of External Affairs to discuss global nonproliferation challenges and approaches to addressing them, including multilateral initiatives and strategic trade controls, the State Department announced on Friday.

He also will engage on regional security issues, including nuclear and missile issues and missile defence,it said.


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