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India, US to hold 123...talks

Menon will hold discussions with Nicholas Burns on issues delaying the finalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2007 15:15 IST

Indian and US officials will on Tuesday hold talks on ironing out differences on a proposed agreement to operationalise the civil nuclear deal.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, who arrived in Washington on Monday, would interact with the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky in the context of the Global Issues Forum but the senior Indian official's trip has assumed importance against the backdrop of a perception in Washington that the 123 Agreement negotiations between the US and India is not moving in the pace it should be.

Menon will on Tuesday hold discussions with the US Under Secretary Nicholas Burns amid "frustration" in the US at the slow pace of negotiations and India's insistence on right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and perennial cooperation even if it were to conduct an atomic test.

They will be joined in their discussions by senior officials of the two sides. In fact, Menon and top officials of the two sides will interact in the evening itself at a working dinner hosted by Burns.

Significantly, the meeting between Menon and Burns on Tuesday will take place 10 days after senior officials from the two sides met in the South African city of Cape Town.

Indian officials had said that "some progress" was made during the discussions but some differences remained for which further parleys were required.

India, while noting its declared policy of unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, refuses to accept it as legally binding by including a clause in the 123 Agreement.

New Delhi insists that civil nuclear cooperation should not be affected if India were to conduct a nuclear test and should be treated at par with other nuclear weapon countries in this regard.

While Washington may agree not to include the clause in the 123 agreement, perenniality of the nuclear cooperation becomes an issue as the US law provides for snapping of atomic ties if any country were to conduct a test.

The top Indian official will on Monday attend the Fifth Meeting of the India-United States Global Issues Forum at the State Department, which is being hosted by Dobriansky. The first meeting of the GIF took place in 2002.

At least four sets of issues are to be discussed between India and the United States at the Global Issues Forum with the first pertaining to Democracy Issues as it pertains to the Community of Democracies; how to move forward with the Mali meeting scheduled for the end of the year; the United Nations Democracy Fund and in the evaluation of the number of grants that have already been made and if a second tranche is required.

In the realm of democracy, officials says Afghanistan will merit some detailed attention. The United States, it is being stressed, is highly appreciative of the role played by India in the movement of democratic initiatives in Afghanistan.

The second set of issues that are to be discussed at the GIF would be trafficking in persons and refugee issues both within the framework of the US and UN. A third set of discussion topics will be around the Human Rights Committee that has been recently established of which the United States is not a member.

Washington and New Delhi will also be dealing with such issues as science and technology, climate change and Avian Flu.