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PM plays down deal differences

On board Air India One, July 18: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is confident that India’s concerns about draft US legislation to facilitate civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries will be met and is against blowing the differences out of proportion.

Singh, who met US President George W. Bush for 30 minutes yesterday in St Petersburg, was given an assurance that there will be “no shifting of goal posts” in the Indo-US nuclear deal.

“The political process in the United States knows what our concerns are. I am very confident that these concerns will be fully taken into account. Therefore, I would not like to blow up these differences,” the Prime Minister told reporters on his way back from St Petersburg.

Singh said that Bush has told him that the parameters laid down in the joint statement of July 18, the civilian and military separation plan presented by India and the March 2 statement by the two leaders would be “the guiding factors in giving final shape to the legislation that the US Congress will adopt”.

His administration, Bush told him, would do “everything on its part to facilitate this”.

Bush was responding to Indian concerns about some provisions in the drafts of the Waiver Authority Bill cleared by the House and Senate committees of the US Congress that impose new obligations on India.

In the meeting, Singh told Bush that some aspects of the Congressional legislation went beyond what India understood to be its agreed obligations. He emphasised the need to stay within the agreed parameters and reciprocal obligations.

Singh apparently pointed out several areas of concern in the proposed legislation.

The limitations and restrictions sought to be placed on nuclear fuel reprocessing and uranium enrichment technology, the Indian Prime Minister said, went against the goal of full civilian nuclear cooperation.

Similarly, the reference to the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the legislation did not recognise that these safeguards (inspection and verification arrangements) would have to be “India-specific”.

This means, that India would not be treated as a non-nuclear weapons signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ' India possessed nuclear weapons and it had also refused to sign the NPT as it considered it discriminatory.

Singh is also believed to have objected to the provision of “end use verification”. India’s case is that once it had agreed to IAEA safeguards there was no need for another verification regime.

The Prime Minister did not go into many other concerns as they had already been brought to the attention of the US negotiators.

Manmohan Singh told reporters that India “cannot take any more commitments” other than those, which are explicitly stated, in the joint statements and the separation plan.

The legislation also mentions that Indian policy towards Iran would have to be in consonance with and supportive of the US policy towards it on nuclear proliferation.

When this was pointed out to Bush, he apparently said that there was a binding part of any US legislation and there is non-binding part which reflected the “sense of the Congress”. The latter, Bush told Singh, did nothing more than to incorporate the wishes of some Congressmen ' these were not binding in any sense.

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