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Terms seen met as US-India nuclear text unveiled

Both countries unveil the much-awaited text outlining their landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal.

delhi Updated: Aug 04, 2007 02:47 IST
YP Rajesh
YP Rajesh

India and the United States unveiled the much-awaited text outlining their landmark civilian nuclear cooperation deal Friday, and analysts said it appeared to have met New Delhi's key demands.

The deal aims to give India access to US nuclear fuel and equipment, overturning a three-decade ban imposed after New Delhi, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, conducted a nuclear test in 1974.

Although the framework deal was approved by the US Congress last December, talks over a bilateral pact, called the 123 agreement after a section of the US Atomic Energy Act, had run into trouble over Indian objections to "new conditions" in it.

It was finalised last month at what were seen as make-or-break talks between top officials of the two sides in Washington and is expected to be formally signed this month.

The once-estranged democracies had agreed that nuclear cooperation would be "on the basis of mutual respect for sovereignty, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and with due respect for each other's nuclear programs," it said.

"This agreement shall remain in force for a period of 40 years," the text said. "It shall continue in force thereafter for additional periods of 10 years each."

In Washington, where some lawmakers and disarmament experts oppose the pact, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey called it "a win for everyone" because it brought India's program into the international nonproliferation system.

The two countries had struggled to sew up the agreement because India had wanted the United States to allow it to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, assure permanent fuel supplies and not penalise India by ending nuclear trade if it conducts another nuclear test.

The text of the agreement showed that the first two demands had largely been met, while there was no direct mention of the consequences of another Indian test.

"Mature Deal"

The pact has to be approved by Congress, while India needs to get clearances from the Nuclear Suppliers Group of nations that govern global civilian nuclear trade and also conclude an agreement to place its civilian reactors under UN safeguards.

"The United States will support an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply over the lifetime of India's reactors," the text said.

If despite these arrangements fuel supply is disrupted, the two countries would jointly convene a group of friendly supplier countries such as Russia, France and Britain to restore supplies to India, it said.

While both countries would have the right to end the pact with a year's advance notice and demand the return of fuel and equipment transferred, "the two parties recognize that exercising the right of return would have profound implications for their relations," the agreement said.

In what Indian officials said was an indirect reference to a future Indian nuclear test, the pact said the two sides had agreed to take into account whether "circumstances that may lead to termination" resulted from a "changed security environment" or "a response to similar actions by other states."

In other words, if Pakistan or China conducted nuclear tests, the US would take that into account if Indian responded.

Indian officials had last week said they were satisfied with the pact and analysts and lobby groups echoed that on Friday.

"On the face of it, it's all there. It's a very mature deal," said Robinder Sachdev of lobby group US Indian Political Action Committee.

"It covers very clearly the basis for moving ahead. It shows both governments want to engage in a mature and sophisticated manner with each other in the next half a century," he said.

First Published: Aug 04, 2007 02:44 IST