Now the spin is that the 'safeguards offer' is what did it for India....
Safeguards offer swung it for India
Indrani Bagchi | TNN
21 Jul 2007, 0230 hrs IST
NEW DELHI: It was India's offer of a dedicated safeguarded facility for reprocessing of imported nuclear fuel that tipped the scales and swung the US to concede reprocessing rights to India. Without this, the Indian government had made it clear that there could be no deal.
The offer of the new facility, made just before the G-8 summit in Heilegendamm, was intended to blunt the non-proliferation opposition. The safeguards and verification of the facility will be implemented by an agreement between India and the IAEA, but the benchmarks will be settled between the US and India. That will form the template of the safeguards agreement that will now be worked out between India and the IAEA, starting in the coming weeks.
In an indication that India wants to wrap up the safeguards agreement as soon as possible, the government has asked Indiaâ€™s envoy to the IAEA, Sheelkant Sharma, to stay on in Vienna until November. The new facility will be built in accordance with the agreed specifications, said sources.
This will not only include a reprocessing facility but a storage facility where spent fuel rods will have to cool down for a couple of years or more before they can be reprocessed. The safeguards will kick in as soon as the fuel enters the complex.
The other big issue that got in the way was the question of fuel assurances and "immunising" imported fuel from the "right of return" should the US decide to invoke it. The US is likely to grant fuel assurances for the reactors that are bought from the US
But for reactors bought from other countries, India will be free to negotiate fuel assurances from those countries. In other words, India can broaden its fuel supplies, and create what is called a "multinational fuel bank". India is trying to ensure that the language of the agreement is tight enough so even an NSG exemption cannot invoke the right of return, which is a battle neither India nor the US have the stomach for any longer.
On nuclear testing, there cannot be any "give" from the US side, and the 123 agreement will probably say that the US reserves the right to stop cooperation if India tests another nuclear weapon. However, the US president does have a waiver authority on this and the judgment will be made on the "merits" â€” that is, in the prevailing international security context at the time.
The two sides continue to work out the "tight legal language" that binds the two countries in this agreement. But if the officials work it out this weekend, it is likely that the deal would be signed by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The battle will now move to the US Congress, and its anybody's guess how they would vote on a 123 agreement with new elements in it. The business and political lobbies are already at work in the US to ensure a clean passage, but the political levers will probably be worked by vice-president Dick Cheney and Rice