The India-US civil nuclear deal is on track. At the end of three days of intensive discussions, India and the United States have moved much closer towards an agreement to operationalise the bilateral civil nuclear deal.
"We are optimistic that we will make the deal,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters on Saturday. “We have removed some of the issues that divided us off the table,” Menon said, “but we still have some distance to travel.”
Hesitant to commit himself to a time frame within which the deal would be concluded, Menon said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to arrive in India towards the end of July, for what could probably be the clinching round of negotiations to seal the 123 Agreement. She has been invited by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The issue of India’s right to reprocess spent fuel appears to have stayed on the table, though Menon declined to specify what contentious issues remain.
"The issues are inter-related,” he said. "The US Administration has assured us that nothing in the Hyde Act prevents them from fulfilling their obligations of July 18, 2005, and March 2, 2006."
US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who concluded his three-day visit tonight with a call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was a little less upbeat, speaking of having made some progress.
In a statement Burns said,"while there has been good cooperation, more work remains to be done to complete arrangements that will permit a civil-nuclear agreement to be finalized between the United States and India."
President George Bush will meet the Indian Prime Minister at Heiligendamm next week, Menon confirmed, though it was clear there would be no major announcements after that meeting.
“We have a political understanding, which we have to translate into a legal agreement. We both have the will to bring it to a successful conclusion."