External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel was absolutely necessary for India as New Delhi and Washington continue to grapple with the nuances of their civilian nuclear deal.
Speaking to Karan Thapar on a CNN-IBN programme, scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday night, he was quoted as saying, “Reprocessing is absolutely necessary for us because we do not want to have a situation like the repetition of Tarapur. They [the US] say that they have some problems. We say do not transfer your problems to us.”
“What has been agreed in the joint statement of July 2005 and subsequently in March 2006 and what's in our commitment to Parliament – they are already aware of it – therefore within these parameters, this 123 agreement has to be signed,” the external affairs minister stated.
Asked whether India would be prepared to accept reprocessing rights on the same terms and conditions as America has granted to Japan, Switzerland and Euratom, Mukherjee said: “We will have to examine that in the context of our commitment to the Indian Parliament and the joint statement of July 2005 and the separation plan of 2006.”
“You are making a comparison between the non-comparables,” Mukherjee responded when asked whether India was ready to accept reprocessing on the same terms and conditions granted by the US to China. “China is already declared a nuclear weapon state. I have already stated it will have to be India specific in the context that India is a non-signatory to NPT [Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty].”
On the reprocessing issue, he felt that some way forward would be found by them. “We will be able to find some way out. Though the negotiations are protracted [but] in complicated negotiations like this sometimes this [delay] happens…both countries are trying their best. I do not doubt their sincerity….”
He was clear that failure to clinch the deal would not have any adverse impact on Indo-US relations. “No, I don't think it will have any adverse impact on the India-US relationship because the India-US relationship is growing….this is an important landmark in our bilateral relationship, no doubt, and we do hope we will reach the successful conclusion of the present series of negotiations. Therefore I am not looking at that [the deal falling through] at all."