New Delhi: Technical issues dominated the bilateral talks between India and US on the 123 Agreement for a second day on Friday. There was no word yet on any possible breakthrough a day before the concluding round of talks on Saturday.
The talks have remain deadlocked over four contentious areas regarding penalties for testing a nuclear device, the right of return in case India conducts nuclear tests, uninterrupted fuel supplies and the right to reprocess spent fuel.
US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns called on External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Advisor MK Narayanan and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma on Friday. Earlier in the day, Burns also held discussions with India's Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon.
The two sides have held marathon technical-level talks focussing on nitty gritty that would govern the agreement, like fuel supplies, sources said. "The talks were positive," a source said, adding that there was forward movement in the negotiations.
"But there is still some work to be done," the source said. Both sides are keen to conclude the agreement as early as possible.
Earlier in the day, the US Under Secretary said both sides are working hard to conclude the deal and hoped it could be clinched "as soon as possible". Burns said he had "good discussions" with Menon and special envoy on the nuclear issue Shyam Saran on Friday.
"I think we are working hard. We are working well and let's hope it will be as soon as possible," Burns said.
India has been insisting on having the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and is not ready to accept any legally binding clause in the agreement that could cap its strategic nuclear programme.
"Both of us (India and the US) understand how important this agreement is to our relationship", Burns said, adding "It is without any question in the best interests of both the countries."
India's High Commissioner to Singapore S Jaishankar, who was closely involved in the talks prior to his present assignment, is also participating in the discussions, mainly on technical aspects. Richard Stratford, Director in US State Department's nuclear division, is also part of negotiations.