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India, US to launch talks on bilateral nuke pact

India and US will formally launch negotiations on bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement on Monday.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 14:25 IST

India and the US will formally launch negotiations on the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreementin New Delhion Monday, amid indications from Washington that this pact could be linked to the Civil Nuclear Cooperation deal currently under debate in the Congress.

A team of US officials, comprising representatives of the State Department, Department of Energy and Bureau of Security and Non-proliferation, will bein New Delhifor the three-day talks with their Indian counterparts to negotiate the Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement or 123 Agreement, sources saidin New Delhi on Saturday.

The talks on the agreement "reflect a desire to establish a framework for broad-ranging peaceful nuclear cooperation," US Embassy sources said.

The negotiations on the bilateral agreement are set to be as tough as those on the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement considering that suggestions have been emerging from the US that India should be made to put a cap on future nuclear testing and that if it conducts a test, the cooperation with US would be nullified.

Pointing out that it has already declared a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, New Delhi has made it clear that it will not want to make it legal.

Meanwhile, an effort is being made to link the bilateral agreement with the civil nuclear deal currently being debated in the US Congress.

"Basically, the Congress understands it is going to act upfront on the legislation (on civil nuclear deal). They (Congress members) are wrestling with the idea at the moment as to how they do that so that they have a final say on whether or not other pieces should be coming or not," US Ambassador to India David C Mulford saidin New Delhirecently.

Mulford said this issue was being discussed by the Bush Administration and the Congress. "We are moving towards possible two-vote solution where there can be upfront vote, which will address the law change and subsequently a second vote on 123 agreement or bilateral agreement when it has been negotiated," he said.