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Indo-US nuclear deal talks resume from Tuesday

New Delhi, Mon, 28 May 2007 Sadiq Ali

May 28: After much deliberation and controversies surrounding the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the deal has now entered a decisive phase. A top US diplomat will visit New Delhi this week to break the deadlock.

During his two day visit, chief US negotiator, US Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns will hold talks with foreign secretary, Shivshankar Menon, to sort out the controversial differences on the 123 agreement.

Few weeks back Burns visit was postponed by US officials after India presented some changes in the original draft. Clarifications were provided at a two-day expert-level meeting in London from May 21.

There had been many ups and downs in the deal since PM Manmohan Singh and US president George W.Bush signed the agreement, in principal, in 2005.

The two countries will hold high level talks in New Delhi on a proposed agreement to make civil nuclear deal effective before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush meet in Germany on the sidelines of G-8 Summit on June 7.

Apart from some inevitable differences negotiators will aim at resolving differences on reprocessing right and continuity of civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test in future.

US sleuths have made clear that the agreement will move ahead and ‘some compromises’ are needed to be made by both sides.

Political parties here in India besides some US lawmakers have raised some objections regarding the proposed agreement. Coalition partner of Manmohan Singh led government; Communist party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) including opposition wants prime minister to discuss the final draft in all parties meeting or parliament before the signing of final draft.

After being signed in 2005, the civil nuclear deal took more than expected time and observers here in New Delhi are still skeptic about it. Australia’s refusal to supply nuclear raw material to India has also delayed it a bit. Australia is one of the leading suppliers of nuclear raw material.

Recent statements made by the US government have raised expectations within the concerned quarters. Few days back Nicholas Burns showed his optimism by saying that both sides were keen to conclude the agreement. “I am confident we will do it,� he said while adding, "It is going to require a little hard work...There will be need for some compromises by both the sides to complete the deal."

The deal is of much significance as in the backdrop of growing friendship between the two countries besides the formal termination of three decades old US sanctions on nuclear trade with India.

US Congress approved the deal in December last year but the India and the U.S. have struggled to conclude a bilateral pact that is required to govern nuclear trade. New Delhi’s reluctance to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is one of the reasons.

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