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India, US to resume nuclear talk

India and the US are set to resume talks that will allow them to begin civilian N-trade, Nilova R Chaudhury.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2007 04:06 IST

India and the United States are set to resume negotiations on the bilateral ‘123 Agreement’ that will allow them to begin civilian nuclear trade. After the US Congress enacted the Henry J Hyde US-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act, senior officials will set a 'roadmap' to bring negotiations to an early conclusion, US Ambassador to India David Mulford said on Thursday.

The Prime Minister's Special Envoy Shyam Saran is due to meet US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns in Washington to work out dates for technical talks, Mulford said on Thursday. He declined to set a time frame within which the negotiations would conclude, but said Saran and Burns would exchange preliminary drafts.

When finalised, the '123 Agreement' will have to go back to the US Congress for a one time ‘up or down vote’ that does not allow amendments, before it becomes operational. By then, the Nuclear Suppliers Group should also have approved an India-specific waiver, Mulford said, and India should have worked out an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency for safeguards on its civilian nuclear power reactors.

India has made it clear that it has "genuine concerns" over certain elements in the Hyde Act, including conditional access to reprocessing technology and reprocessing of spent fuel, and these need to be addressed in the 123 Agreement.

India is also not ready to accept any legally binding provision on future nuclear testing in the bilateral agreement, Saran has said. Nor would it agree to fissile material controls under any bilateral pact, but only within a multilateral framework.

These issues would now be translated in the operational agreement, Mulford said. Since the "prognosis was good" for the agreement, Mulford said the two countries were moving towards thinking about other aspects of the bilateral relationship.

"We are preparing to look beyond the civil nuclear deal that has dominated the discourse", he said, pointing towards other aspects like agriculture, education and defence.

E-mail Nilova Roy Chaudhury: nilova@hindustantimes.com