An Indian negotiating team in Washington “is in the final stretches of arriving at a nuclear fuel reprocessing agreement” with the United States. The pact is likely to be announced during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s five-day state visit to the US beginning on Sunday.
Singh’s visit to Washington is the first full-fledged state visit of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The reprocessing agreement is an unfinished component of the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement of 2008.
It will put in place the technical and legal framework allowing India to recycle nuclear fuel supplied by the US in a facility that guarantees non-proliferation. Allowing India reprocessing rights was a contentious domestic issue in the US during negotiations for the deal.
“The civil nuclear cooperation agreement will operationalise soon since we’re meeting all the milestones on time,” said a source. “Cabinet has cleared the nuclear liability bill and the reprocessing agreement is being concluded.”
Before leaving, Singh said he looked forward to discussing “global threats and challenges of our times, such as terrorism, climate change…(and) the global economic slowdown”.
The PM said he also expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and other regional issues.
The US plans to substantially increase its military presence in Afghanistan to stablise the region and consolidate the new regime of President Hamid Karzai. Sources said CIA chief Leon Panetta told this to national security adviser M.K. Narayanan before the latter left for the US with the prime minister.
The meeting covered all aspects of unified anti-terror mechanisms between the two countries.
Panetta is believed to have told Narayanan that he was not optimistic that Pakistan could effectively act against terror targeting India. Narayanan requested the CIA chief to lean more heavily on Pakistan.
India and the US are hoping to conclude a memorandum of understanding on counter-terrorism measures during Singh’s visit.
Sources said the US offered to provide “substantially more information” on David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, two terror suspects in the FBI’s custody.
There is increasing evidence of the duo’s links to 26/11 and the FBI is closing in on an individual who may have been a key conspirator behind the attacks in Mumbai. An official source said India had a stake in the US’s Af-Pak policy and would like to see that Karzai “gets an opportunity to improve things”. “If the Taliban win, it’ll be bad news for India,” he said. He ruled out any form of Indian military presence in the region.