India and the United States have taken another step towards completion of the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal, with India’s Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns signing the Arrangements and Procedures agreement that governs reprocessing of nuclear fuel in India.
A statement released by the Indian Embassy in Washington said that the agreement “enables reprocessing by India of US-obligated nuclear material under IAEA safeguards and will facilitate participation by US firms in India’s rapidly expanding civil nuclear energy sector.”
The deal will allow India to reprocess fuel originating from India at a facility located on Indian territory, though with International Atomic Energy Agency oversight.
Commenting upon it earlier, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said that “what that really means is, is today marks one of the final steps in terms of implementation of the US-India Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.”
The deal also allows the Obama Administration to take a chunk of credit for the historic agreement that was spearheaded by former US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The statement clearly indicated that objective, even as the American President is scheduled to visit India this November: “This arrangement, negotiated and concluded under President Barack Obama, reflects the Administration’s strong commitment to building successfully on the landmark US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative and is a prerequisite for US nuclear fuel suppliers to conduct business with India. Previously, US had extended such reprocessing consent only to the European Union and Japan.”
The agreement had been reached in late March this year after months of negotiation.
US and India hope that the process of implementation of the nuclear deal can commence before Obama’s visit to India.
The nuclear deal had entered into force on December 6, 2008, about two months after it was signed by then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Other than minor wrinkles that remain to be ironed out, one key component will be the passage of the nuclear liability legislation in Parliament.