India, which had been bound hand and foot by Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines prohibiting civilian nuclear commerce with NSG nations, wants "unconditional clearance" from the 45-member group to end its international isolation.
Senior officials told
on Thursday that the "123 draft" agreement, which had been initialed by both India and the United States, would be formally signed only after the NSG ended all curbs against India. It was now up to the US to take the issue before the NSG and obtain the lifting of all restrictions, a provision that would be special to India. New Delhi wants this to be done as soon as possible.
Just before the nuclear deal goes to the NSG, New Delhi will engage the International Atomic Energy Agency for an India-specific safeguards agreement. "We don't anticipate problems in the IAEA," the officials said, stressing that the agreement would be clinched in the next couple of months.
A key "non-hindrance" clause had been included in the draft agreement, which spoke of India's right to go ahead with its military nuclear programme, the officials revealed. "We can do what we want on the nuclear front. It says you can make a bomb. It's like an agreement with a nuclear weapons state," they said.
The officials said a compensation clause had been included in case the US decided to cease civilian nuclear cooperation with India. They were, however, concerned that articles in the draft could create problems in the US Congress.
A presidential determination was a must in case the US decided to seek an end to nuclear commerce with India. This is in line with US President George W Bush's commitments when he signed the Hyde Act into law.
A "multi-layered" system of consultations had been built into the accord to prevent any more Tarapur-type situations. All commitments contained in the March 2006 separation plan relating to uninterrupted supply of fuel for safeguarded civilian nuclear reactors had been incorporated in Article 5 of the "123 draft".
According to the officials, while the draft agreement had been cleared by key Cabinet committees in India, a similar process had now been completed in the US. The "123 draft" had to go through the grind in the US political process, including clearance from Bush himself.
Both New Delhi and Washington are planning to announce on Friday that they have completed negotiations on the "123 draft", the officials revealed. National Security Adviser MK Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and Department of Atomic Energy chief Anil Kakodkar are scheduled to jointly address the press on Friday.
However, the draft agreement will not be made public on Friday since the US wanted some more time to work its own systems. Here, in New Delhi, the government has gone into overdrive to explain to political parties that they had managed to get a "good deal". None of the "red lines" laid down by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his August 17, 2006 commitments to Parliament had been crossed, the officials maintained.