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Fuel from other countries won’t be hit, says Mulford

Sandeep Dikshit

India and the U.S. must move quickly to wrap up other aspects of the nuclear deal, the envoy says

NEW DELHI: U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford said India’s (proposed) strategic fuel reserves sourced from other countries would remain unaffected even if it was to conduct a nuclear test.

“The testing issue is not mentioned in the agreement. There is [also] no regulation over India’s strategic nuclear capability. India has accepted that U.S. laws on this matter [nuclear test] are not going to change but the right of return is a discretionary right by the U.S. President and it has been preserved,” Mr. Mulford told newspersons over telephone from his home in Wisconsin on Monday.

“I hope this won’t occur and India’s commitment of a unilateral moratorium on further testing would hold out. But fuel from other countries would not be affected. India has come out with a very secure position,” he added.

Asked whether India could also access technologies for reprocessing and enrichment, Mr. Mulford said “it could be possible to seek changes,” but maintained that it was not the “prime issue” in the negotiations.

“The U.S. law is very clear on that but we will possibly remain open in that.”

Mr. Mulford also made the point that India and the U.S. must move quickly to wrap up other aspects to avoid the deal getting caught up by the U.S. Presidential elections.

In particular, India must conclude safeguard negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) within a couple of months and the U.S. would attempt to place the 123 agreement before its Congress as soon as feasible.

Strategic ties

Mr. Mulford hoped that the “compromise and concessions” by both sides would set the basis for “deep” strategic relations. One of the most important concessions was granting India the right to reprocess the spent fuel.

Asked who would be major beneficiary of the deal, he said India’s 35 years of isolation from the civil nuclear mainstream would end if the process was completed and could serve as the basis for the development of one of the world’s “major” civil nuclear industries with “heavy” participation by U.S. companies and other countries.

On Iran, he did not think India was considering helping Iran in this sector but felt New Delhi’s relationship with Tehran would be “carefully scrutinised and reviewed” by Congress when it votes on the changes in the 123 agreement.

On obtaining a consensus in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group for changing its rules to accommodate India, he said the U.S. was committed to helping India. “Consultations show that the NSG members are generally favourable.”

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