India, US intensify efforts for democracy, nuclear talks
May 1, 2007 - 5:35:58 PM

Washington, May 1 - India and the US, holding a crucial round of negotiations to iron out major differences on the civil nuclear deal Tuesday, have stepped up cooperation on global issues like promoting democracy, human rights and sustainable development.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon held talks with Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky at the fifth meeting of the US-India Global Issues Forum here Monday and discussed a host of pressing global issues that require joint action.

'Those areas included issues related to the promotion of democratic values and human rights, protection of the vulnerable, and environmental conservation and sustainable development,' said a joint press statement.

'The two sides explored increased coordination of efforts, including through multilateral organisations, to strengthen democratic principles and institutions worldwide,' the statement said.

'The delegations also discussed continued and new cooperation on protecting the global environment, and underscored the importance of ongoing collaboration in science and technology and public health,' it added.

Menon Tuesday will hold talks with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Washington's chief interlocutor on the nuclear deal, on the text of the 123 agreement that is bogged down over major differences over key issues like India's right to nuclear testing and access to technologies relating to reprocessing of US-origin spent fuel.

Joining Menon in the discussions will be S. Jaishankar, India's high commissioner to Singapore who has been actively involved with the negotiations, as well as other Indian diplomats.

India will try to get the US to agree to a position whereby the 123 pact, named after Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, will not include a ban on nuclear testing - something which is not acceptable to Washington.

Washington has insisted on inserting a clause in the 123 pact that envisages termination of all civilian nuclear cooperation between New Delhi and Washington should the former conduct a nuclear test.

The US, on its part, is insisting on a right-of-return clause for nuclear equipment and fuel sold under the agreement. This is not acceptable to India as it runs counter to the lifetime fuel supply assurances given by the US.

This will be the third round of formal negotiations between India and the US over the 123 pact which has to be approved by both houses of the US Congress by an up-and-down vote before the US opens doors of nuclear commerce to India.

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group will also have to approve the deal and amend its guidelines before India resumes global civil nuclear cooperation.

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