Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met President George W Bush on Friday for a fleeting few minutes amid a flurry of activity at the G-8 Summit, but signals trickling suggested that there was enough commitment on both sides to carry forward efforts to iron out sensitive differences in the Indo-US nuclear cooperation accord stalled in grey areas over how to deal with spent fuel imported from the US.
The two leaders met at the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm on a day when the US President was hit by a stomach ailment. External Affairs Ministry officials described the meeting as a “short pull aside”. They had been expected to mention but not discuss or announce anything significant with regard to the nuclear deal.
However, officials said National Security Advisor MK Narayanan met his counterpart Stephen Hadley, which in the context of efforts to reach an agreement, is considered significant.
G-8 leaders reaffirmed their efforts to “counter the global proliferation challenge” in a Heiligendamm declaration on the issue, which made reassuring but guarded remarks on India while backing a “multilateral treaty regime” to prevent proliferation.
Discussions between India and the US are centred around how New Delhi can assure Washington that it has a right to re-use spent fuel, while giving the US a framework to ensure that the fuel will not be diverted for military use. Indian diplomats scoff at the word proliferation, given the track record of successive governments in guarding nuclear secrets and preventing them from reaching other nations.
The special status that India enjoys amid international controversies over nuclearisation of Iran and North Korea is a matter that deserves nuancing for Washington to convince anti-proliferation hardliners in the Congress.