India and the United States are expected to finalise a crucial agreement on reprocessing under the civil nuclear deal in 10-12 days, with all but one issue being resolved and negotiations centring around finalising a mutually acceptable legal text.
“We have arrived into the last stage of negotiations...only one issue remains, that of finalising the legal text,” National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan told journalists accompanying the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his return home from a two-nation tour of the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago.
The two sides were racing against time to conclude the agreement for setting up of dedicated reprocessing facility in India before the meeting between Dr. Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday but could not do so.
The setting up of reprocessing facility under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards is a key requirement for implementing the nuclear deal that was signed last year.
The negotiations gained momentum after intervention at the highest level, Mr. Narayanan said.
The negotiations were almost complete and one more round of discussions would be required to clinch the agreement “possibly in 10-12 days,” informed sources said.
They said the two sides resolved two of the key issues that were holding up the conclusion of the agreement.
These were questions such as whether one or more dedicated facility should be set up and what should be the type of security for these installations that will reprocess the spent nuclear fuel.
India wanted to set up multiple facilities, arguing that it would be beneficial for the U.S. when it starts setting up nuclear plants in India and would be requiring the facilities to reprocess more and more spent fuel.
It was now agreed that one dedicated facility would be set up initially with a provision for more in case the need arose, the sources said.
As for security, it was agreed that the protective mechanism would be on the lines of what existed in the U.S., the sources said.
The third sticking point was whether reprocessing should be suspended at any time and in what circumstances and conditions.