Washington: As top Indian and US officials
race to conclude negotiations on reprocessing of spent fuel,
the Obama Administration is insisting for an assurance from
India on nuclear non-proliferation, a sticking point in
clearing the way for nuclear commerce.
The requirement of the "assurance", which is seen as a
"proximate obstacle" to doing business, has surprised the
Indian side which is looking forward to implementation of the
123 Agreement for civil nuclear cooperation signed last year.
The issue is expected to figure in the talks during the
upcoming visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, the
first world leader to be the State guest under the
ten-month-old Obama Administration.
The Obama administration cited the requirement of the
assurance in February last and this has been pushed by
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Energy Secretary Stevan
Chu during their visits to India later.
In the absence of such an "assurance" letter from
India, the US Department of Energy would not be able to issue
the mandatory license –called Part 810 (pronounced Part eight
ten) – to American companies for doing any kind of civilian
nuclear trade with the country, the sources said.
Under Part 810, the Energy Secretary is authorised to
give permission, directly or indirectly, to persons or
companies in the production of special nuclear material
outside the US.
This provision applies to technology transfers and
technical assistance to all activities of the nuclear
fuel-cycle, including non-power reactors.
Taken by surprise, the Indian side is understood to
have questioned its necessity while noting that New Delhi`s
position on non-proliferation has been underlined in the 123
Even on the eve of waiver by Nuclear Suppliers Group in
September last year, India had issued a statement reaffirming
its commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament goals and
referred to its voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing.
The two sides are now looking at wrapping up
negotiations for setting up of dedicated Reprocessing Facility
by India, which was an essential requirement of the 123
Agreement, by the time of Singh`s visit here on November 23.
Under the 123 Agreement, the two sides had to start
negotiations for Dedicated Reprocessing Facility within six
months of signing the pact and conclude the discussions within
a year thereafter.
India`s Atomic Energy Commission`s Chairman Anil
Kakodkar was in Washington last week to hold talks with the US
officials on this issue.