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India, US clinch historic Nuclear deal

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 2 (UNI) After seven months of hard bargaining, India and the US today clinched the historic civilian nuclear energy cooperation deal with New Delhi presenting a plan for separation of its civilian and military programmes to Washington but asserting that the country's strategic interests would not be compromised.

This ''unlocks the door'' for nuclear feed to India for its development and burgeoning energy needs, official sources said.

The two countries reached a mutually-satisfactory understanding regarding the process of separation of India's civil and military nuclear programmes, that was the high-point of the thorny negotiations.

The annoucement was made at a joint press conference here by US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after their 45-minute one-on-one and delegation-level talks at the majestic Hyderebad House.

According to the separation plan, India will declare 65 per cent of its nuclear facilities for international safeguards and will not compromise with its military programmes and strategic interests.

The Fast-Breeder Reactors also has been left outside the purview.

India also reserves the right to decide on classification as civilian or military of its future facilities and the separation plan is only for the present facilities, the sources added.

''An important step forward is the separation plan. That has been successfully completed. Now it is for the US to go to the Congress for necessary amends to the US laws and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

We have to go to the International Atomic Energy Agency for India-specific safeguards,'' the Prime Minister said.

President Bush described the deal as an ''historic agreement'' saying it had not been easy for him as well as the Prime Minister to reach an understanding on the deal which would benefit both the countries.

The finalisation of the nuclear deal was the centre-piece of the US President's three-day visit to India even though both sides had taken pains to suggest that the trip had a broader agenda.

Under the agreement, which has seen strong opposition from some members of the US Congress and some political circles in India, New Delhi will separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes and place the civilian facilities under international safeguards.

The US will offer nuclear technology to India for civilian use to cater to its huge energy demands.

Although there was still a long way to go for full implementation of the agreement, considering the concerns of the US Congress and the NSG, it nevertheless ''unlocks the doors'' for India's development.

''Not only does it unlock the nuclear feed, but also satisfies the concerns of the very restrictive regimes which have been built up against developing countries, specifically India. If you want to unlock the supply for dual use technology, this is the key,'' the sources added.

They however, said the challenges could not be minimised but an important step had been taken and the first phase had been completed.

The separation plan would now be given to the US Congress and also taken to the NSG. The two would be going on parallel lines.

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