It will take a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United States President George Bush to provide the final push to the bilateral 123 Agreement, to operationalise the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. The two are scheduled to meet in Heiligendamm on the Baltic coast of Germany on the sidelines of the outreach meeting of the G-8 summit on June 7.
Speaking to HT, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he did not think the agreement would be finalised before that. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon has been talking with US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns to iron out differences on the deal.
“It is very difficult for us to go out of the framework and parameters of the agreement reached on July 18, 2005 and the Separation Plan of March 2, 2006 and the Prime Minister's statement to the Rajya Sabha,” (on August 17, 2006) he said.
The bilateral 123 Agreement will have to adhere to the PM’s commitments to Parliament, he said.
The minister explained that the problem areas remain the reprocessing of spent fuel, assurances of permanent fuel supply, the right to return (which the United States must invoke, according to its domestic law) and the ban on India conducting a nuclear test. “We have declared a voluntary moratorium on testing,” Mukherjee said. “There is no question of agreeing to a binding, legal obligation.”
While the civil nuclear collaboration is not intended to impact India's strategic programme, “a lot of scientists feel this deal will disturb the indigenous programme,” Mukherjee said.
When asked if the deal was in danger of not happening, he said he did not think so and remained optimistic that it could be done.