No breakthrough in Indo-US talk on nuke deal
New Delhi, June 2: India and the US were engaged in serious negotiations for the third day today on the nuclear deal even as no immediate breakthrough was in sight to iron out their differences.
US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who concludes his three-day visit this evening, continued his talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.
Simultaneously, technical level talks were also on between the two sides headed by Dr S Jaishankar, High Commissioner to Singapore, and Mr Richard Stratford, Director, Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security.
Neither side has held any official press briefing so far, giving the details of the discussions on the proposed 123 agreement which will operationalise the July 18, 2005 nuclear deal for cooperation in the civil field.
Besides the Foreign Secretary, Mr Burns, who is Bush administration's point man on the issue, has also held talks with National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, Mr Shyam Saran, special emissary on the nuclear deal, and Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar.
The main differences arise from India's insistence that there should not be any deviation from the 2005 deal under which India would retain the right to conduct nuclear tests and reprocess uranium which were vital for its three-stage programme and would get fuel supplies without any interruption.
However, the US law as provided in the Hyde Act would allow Washington to terminate the deal on several counts, including a nuclear test by India and New Delhi's relations with Iran.
According to experts, the provisions of the 123 agreement cannot over-ride the Hyde Act and as such it is necessary to amend the Act before operationalising the nuclear deal.
The two sides are also interpreting the July 18 joint statement differently in a bid to justify their respective stands.
Yesterday, after meeting Mr Sharma, Mr Burns said they were ''working hard'' to resolve ''as soon as possible'' the differences over the deal.
''I think we are working hard. We are working well and let's hope it will be as soon as possible,'' Mr Burns said.
He was replying to a question on the progress of the fresh round of talks and how long it would take to thrash out the differences on the language of the 123 agreement.
India and the US understood how important this agreement was to their relationship. ''It is without any question in the best interests of both the countries.'' Mr Burns said he had very good discussions with Mr Menon and Mr Saran.
The US official had earlier said that 90 per cent of the problems had been dealt with.
The present round of negotiations come in the wake of technical level talks held last week in London.
The last ditch efforts to save the deal are being made in view of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush on the margins of the G8 summit in Germany next week.