India, US to sort out 123 pact issues mid-July


New Delhi : India and the US will hold a crucial round of negotiations in the middle of July to sort out differences over "one or two" remaining issues – reprocessing and testing – with a view to preparing a final 123 bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact.

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This time round, the two sides are planning to upgrade their negotiations at the level of national security advisers, informed sources said.

National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon are likely to visit Washington July 16 for talks with US NSA Stephen Hadley and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, Washington's pointman on the nuclear deal.

The 123 agreement will pave the way for resumption of civil nuclear commerce between the two countries.

The talks between the NSAs may be followed by the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to India towards the end of next month or early August.

The focus will be on resolving the impasse over India's insistence on getting prior US consent for reprocessing of US-origin or US-obligated fuel which Washington is not ready to grant yet.

During the talks, New Delhi will also insist on iron-clad fuel supply guarantees for the imported reactors, the sources said.

During informal talks between the two sides on the margin of the G-8 summit in Germany last month, India had suggested setting up a dedicated standalone facility for reprocessing spent fuel and placing it under international safeguards.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that "one or two issues" still needed to be resolved before the two sides can achieve closure on the 123 agreement.

Addressing the 32nd anniversary celebrations of the United States-India Business Council (USIBC) in Washington this week, Rice has said that she was "certain" that the two sides "will be in a position to complete this deal by the end of the year".