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According to chief US negotiator, Nicholas Burns, the India-US civil nuclear deal paving the way for nuclear cooperation between the two countries after 30 years may become a reality by early 2008, prior to his discussion with visiting Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon.Â
The Indian official is also expected to convey New Delhi’s concerns over certain elements of the enabling US legislation signed by Bush in December 2006. New Delhi is not ready to accept any legally binding provision on future nuclear testing in the 123 Agreement. Nor is it happy with provisions relating to conditional access to reprocessing technology, end use verification of reprocessed fuel and the attempt to cap India’s strategic nuclear programme.
An early conclusion of an agreement will provide broad contours for India to negotiate a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). On his first visit to Washington after taking over as foreign secretary in October 2006, Menon will also meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials in the departments of state, commerce, agriculture, energy, defence and the National Security Counci
Â The US undersecretary and Menon are due to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues, during a two-day meeting of the high technology coperation group (HTCG) on 22 and 23 Februay. The meeting will be co-chaired by Menon.Â
Burns said once the negotiations over implementing the bilateral 123 agreement are completed, the accord would come up for Congressional approval in an a “yes or no” vote with no scope for an amendment by the end of this year or early 2008, he said at a dinner.Â
President George Bush will then sign the final bill into law. “I am determined that we are going to get there as quickly as possible – I know we will,” he said and added, “We will continue to rely on this bipartisan support that’s being built up as we go along.”Â
Burns, a non-partisan career diplomat said, “We have to give credit to president Clinton, because in my view, president Clinton was the first American president who had the vision to say: ‘We can have a strategic global partnership with India’.”Â