New Delhi: Indian prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, engaged in a telephonic conversation with the president of United States, George W Bush on Wednesday evening. According to government sources, the two leaders expressed satisfaction at the strong India-US bilateral relationship and spoke about the forthcoming discussions between the National Security Advisers of both countries, scheduled for the coming week.
The talks are slated for July 16-18.
According to sources, both the chief executives expressed the hope that the forthcoming discussions would reinforce the strong bilateral relations. They also said that they both were looking forward to continue their own discussions at their next meeting.
Meanwhile, with time running out for the Bush Administration to see this deal through, both sides are likely to field almost all the key players involved in the July 18 talks two years ago in an effort to hammer out an understanding on the 123 agreement.
It is expected that Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) chief, Anil Kakodkar, will accompany national security advisor, MK Narayanan, and foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, to Washington. The ambassadors of the two countries, Ronen Sen and David Mulford will also be part of the talks.
By way of sending out a positive signal before this make or break meeting, the Indian Cabinet will likely take up a proposal for India to formally join the Container Security Initiative (CSI). This has been one of the key counter-proliferation programmes of the Bush Administration after the 9/11 attacks, and India has been one of the notable absentees from this global initiative undertaken by the US.
With the 123 Agreement in limbo, after both sides reached an impasse in Delhi earlier in June, it is likely that a politically empowered delegation, with National security advisor, MK Narayanan, and his US counterpart, Stephen Hadley, heading their respective delegations, would try and seek a breakthrough.
The key hurdle in the 123 talks, that of the US extending India the right to reprocess spent fuel still remains unresolved. While this is not negotiable for India, given the fact that the PM made this commitment in Parliament, American bureaucracy is trying to figure out ways and means to get around what it portrays as various "roadblocks," from in-place domestic legislation to lack of any historical precedent for allowing such flexibility for India.
Earlier in June, in his meeting with Hadley at Heiligendamm, Narayanan sought to break the impasse by suggesting that India could place a purpose-built standalone reprocessing facility under IAEA safeguards for handling US-origin spent fuel. It is hoped that the fact that India is willing to expand the number of its safeguarded fuel cycle facilities beyond what it agreed to do in 2006 may prove useful for the Bush administration in swaying sentiment on Capitol Hill.