Hindustan Times: Pranab speaks about the Nuclear Deal
Do not transfer your problems to us, India tells US
US has constraints on deal: Pranab - June 04, 2007
New Delhi, June 10, 2007
First Published: 10:19 IST(10/6/2007)
Last Updated: 13:01 IST(10/6/2007)
Amid concerns about the course of the India-US nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said he is "hopeful" the deal will go through. But he added it was "absolutely necessary
" for the US to give India the right to reprocess spent fuel before they seal a bilateral pact.
In an interview on Sunday, Mukherjee also sought immunity
to the strategic fuel reserve India will build from the US proposed right-to-return clause in the 123 agreement that envisages New Delhi returning all nuclear equipment and fuel back to Washington if it tests a nuclear device
Mukherjee also spelt out for the first time the contours of reprocessing right, which will be acceptable to India given its unique status as a de facto nuclear weapon country that has not signed the NPT.
"Reprocessing is absolutely necessary for us because we do not want to have a situation like the repetition of Tarapur," Mukherjee said, alluding to the problems of disruption of fuel and disposal of spent fuel India faced after the US unilaterally discontinued fuel supply to the Tarapur atomic power plant in 1980. American companies had built the plant.
"They say that they have some problems. We say, 'do not transfer your problems to us'," he said.
"What has been agreed in the joint statement of July 2005 and subsequently in March 2006 and what's in our commitment to parliament - they are already aware of it - therefore within these parameters the 123 agreement has to be signed," he said.
Asked if India would be prepared to accept reprocessing rights on the same terms and conditions as the US has granted to Japan, Switzerland and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), Mukherjee said, "We will have to examine that in the context of our commitment to the Indian parliament and the joint statement of July 2005 and the separation plan of 2006."
He, however, replied in negative when asked if India would be ready to designate specific plants for reprocessing and placing them under safeguards - a condition accepted by Japan, Switzerland and Euratom.
"There are certain issues which we shall have to keep in mind. For instance, India is a non-signatory to NPT. The other countries, which you have referred to (Japan, Switzerland and Euratom), are signatories to NPT. Therefore this arrangement will have to be India specific
," the minister stressed.
Asked if India could accept reprocessing on the same terms and conditions as the US has granted to China, where if permission is not given within six months Beijing acquires an automatic interim right of reprocessing, the minister again indicated this would not be acceptable.
"You are making a comparison between the non-comparables. China is already declared a nuclear weapon state. I have already stated it will have to be India specific in the context (of the fact) that India is a non-signatory to NPT."
Mukherjee, however, expressed optimism that despite serious differences over reprocessing, the US and India will be able to "find some way out" as both countries are trying their best to seal a bilateral 123 pact that is expected to lead to the resumption of civilian nuclear cooperation between them.
The minister's remarks come after a crucial round of civil nuclear negotiations between Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns over a week ago ended without a breakthrough on contentious issues like nuclear testing and reprocessing.
Mukherjee's emphasis on reprocessing right has underlined that India is not prepared to compromise on this front as it is directly linked with its indigenous three-point nuclear energy programme.
In a "pull aside" meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Germany Friday, both leaders expressed their commitment to seeing the deal through and said that the deal was "doable".
National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and his US counterpart Steve Hadley discussed a new proposal by India to break the logjam over reprocessing that could involve New Delhi setting up a dedicated national facility for storage of nuclear fuel.
By setting up such a facility - reprocessing infrastructure is not currently listed on the civilian side in the March separation plan presented by India - New Delhi wants to find a middle way and to assure the US that such reprocessed fuel will not be diverted to its military facilities.