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We can proceed on N-deal: India

Saran said Burns informed him that the Secretary of State was making efforts to ensure deal goes through Congress.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 23:20 IST

Amid optimism over the passage of the civil nuclear deal by the US Congress, India on Thursday said "some work" still needed to be done to ensure that as top officials of the two countries reviewed progress on it.

During a meeting with US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran handed over a draft of the proposed bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, highlighting New Delhi's commitment to unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing.

Burns "gave me an account of where it (legislation on the nuclear agreement) stands (in the US Congress). There is still work to be done," Saran told reporters after the meeting.

Saran, however, said that the "outlook was positive and encouraging".

Asked what made him conclude that the outcome was positive, the Foreign Secretary said it was based on the extensive interactions the US administration has had with various members of the Congress and individual Senators.

Saran said Burns informed him that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was making efforts to see that the deal goes through the Congress.

"The sum total is that we can move ahead on the nuclear deal," he said.

The agreement, signed by the two countries during the visit of US President George W Bush to New Delhi in March, when passed by the Congress will end a 32-year-old ban on trade with India in nuclear technology and material.

To a question, Saran emphasised that it would be better if the deal is passed by the Congress sooner than later.

Noting that there are always "some uncertainties", Saran said "general perception is that we are still on track.. On the balance, the prospect is encouraging."

Asked what needed to be done to get the deal approved by the Congress, he said as long as the legislation was not not passed, the work done will remain incomplete.

"We would like this (approval of the legislation by Congress) to be done soon," the Foreign Secretary said, adding that not not only New Delhi but Washington too felt the same way.

"Talks are on to get the legislation pased by the US Congress," he said, maintaining that the work has also been done on the issue of separation of Indian military and civilian nuclear plants as also on export controls.

In the draft of the proposed bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, the Indian side expressed its commitment to the July 18, 2005 Joint Statement wherein it has pointed out that it had declared unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and stood by it.

Pointing out that India had separated its civilian and military nuclear programmes and outlined it to the US, Saran said India will not accept any international inspection of its military facilities as the safeguards agreement to be worked out with IAEA applied only to the civilian establishments.

Saran said the draft of agreement presented to Burns is in line with the Separation Plan given to the US in March.

He pointed out that, under the deal, India has given assurances that any technology or material received by it for civilian nuclear programme will not be diverted to any other country or to its military programme.

To a question, he said the Bush Administration feels that there had been good progress on the deal in the Congress.

The Foreign Secretary underlined that the passage of the legislation by the Congress was the key step.

First Published: May 25, 2006 17:37 IST