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'India nears pact with France, Russia'

india Updated: Sep 11, 2008 15:27 IST

IANS
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India on Thursday said it would move towards finalising bilateral agreements on civil nuclear energy cooperation with countries like France and Russia, though the "actual cooperation" would begin only after the 123 agreement with the US came into force.

"Following the Nuclear Suppliers' Group statement which enables civil nuclear cooperation by NSG members with India, government is taking steps to realise commercial cooperation with foreign partners in the field," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Navtej Sarna said in a statement.

"We have informed the USA about our intent to source state of the art nuclear technologies and facilities based on the provisions of the 123 Agreement from the US. Government is also moving towards finalising bilateral agreements with other friendly partner countries such as France and Russia," it added.

The MEA spokesperson added that while actual cooperation would commence after bilateral agreements like the 123 agreement come into force, "the Nuclear Power Cooperation of India has already commenced a preliminary dialogue with US companies in this regard".

The statement is an attempt to assure the US as well as the other countries that though India would wait till the 123 agreement is completed, it would not stop negotiations with others to widen its net for newer sources for cooperation on civil nuclear energy.

The statement also comes at a time when attempts are being made by the George W. Bush administration to push the India-US nuclear agreement through the US Congress.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is in New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders; cooperation between the two sides on civil nuclear energy is one of the issues likely to come up during the discussions between the two sides.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to travel to Paris at the end of the month. Among other things, the two sides will try and finalise their cooperation on civil nuclear energy. The Russians will make a similar attempt when their President Dmitry Medvedev visits New Delhi later this year for the annual summit between the two countries.

After the NSG waiver to India last weekend, reports have started appearing in sections of the Indian media on whether the government will put everything on hold till the 123 agreement with the US was completed.

Sources in New Delhi pointed out that while India is totally mindful of the role played by the US at the NSG to get the India-specific waiver, the US leadership, including both Republicans and Democrats, must also show some urgency to clear the last hurdle for the 123 agreement in the US Congress.

"We are willing to wait, but it cannot be an open-ended wait. This is something even the US leaders will have to realise," sources added.