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N-deal likely during Bush visit to India

The pact will allow India access to a whole range of dual technologies, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 01:48 IST

Negotiations are working overtime to conclude a deal on Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation by the time President George W Bush arrives on Wednesday, but there was still "some distance to go" before the deal could be announced.

Analysts, however, said a deal would be finalised and announced during the presidential visit, contending that even the July 18 statement was worked out "at the last moment" at the personal intervention of the President.

"We have managed to make considerable progress but we still have some distance to go. This is a complicated and complex issue," a cautious Shyam Saran, the foreign secretary, said on Tuesday.

Both countries, he said, were keen to reach an agreement "as soon as possible," but indicated there were still some areas of disagreement. "Unless we have a deal, we don't have a deal," said Saran.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after his statement on the Indo-US nuclear issue in Parliament on Monday, and said there was "still some work to be done" before an agreed declaration could be announced.

Her view is shared by the mandarins in Delhi. India, Saran said, needed a certain degree of clarity on mutual commitments on the nuclear deal to make sure that there were "no ambiguities" that could cause problems in the future.

"Our effort has been to leave no unfinished business that could create difficulties for us later on," he said. "If necessary, we will, of course, continue the negotiations beyond the President's forthcoming visit," said Saran, the key Indian negotiator in the civil nuclear dialogue. "We are doing some very hard bargaining."

He indicated that the nature and extent of the separation plan (between civilian and strategic facilities) and the nature of safeguards to be imposed on India's civilian nuclear facilities by the IAEA needed agreement. However, both countries were "pretty close" to finalising the deal, Saran said.

The nuclear pact, when finalised, would allow India access to a whole range of dual technologies apart from just nuclear. "It also represents India's coming back into the nuclear mainstream," Saran said.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 01:48 IST