New Delhi: India and the US will get down to do some tough negotiations on Monday when they begin talks to finalise the bilateral civil nuclear agreement that will govern future nuclear trade between the two countries.
Leading the US team will be Richard Stratford, director of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security in the State Department while the Indian team will be headed by Raminder Jassal, deputy chief of its Washington mission.
Jassal will be assisted by Gayatri Kumar, joint secretary (Americas) in the External Affairs Ministry, and other officials of the department of atomic energy.
The negotiations on the contours of the 1-2-3 bilateral civil nuclear pact will be the first round of talks between the two sides since the US Congress passed the enabling bill or the Hyde Act for full civilian nuclear cooperation with India in December.
India is expected to fight hard for its right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. India's voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing will also be discussed.
Critical issues like nuclear testing and the production of fissile materials, re-processing of spent fuel and the nature of India's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will also dominate the discussions between the two sides.
The two sides will build on convergences and concentrate on finalising a large part of the text of the 1-2-3 agreement — named after Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act — that will have to be approved by an up and down vote by both chambers of the US Congress before it becomes operational.
The Indian side is keen to see that the controversial portions of the Hyde Act are removed from the bilateral agreement. Washington has been insisting that New Delhi first sign the 'India-specific' safeguards agreement before it approaches the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for amending its guidelines in favour of nuclear commerce with India.
New Delhi wants Washington to first clear the 1-2-3 Agreement. The 1-2-3 Agreement, which will be the sole legal document to govern nuclear commerce between India and the US, will be crucial in influencing the 45-nation NSG to amend its guidelines in favour of global nuclear trade with India.