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Indian nuke scientists differ from PMO on US deal

New Delhi, Jan 25, IRNA-India's top nuclear scientists are determined not to allow the United States have a full say in the separation of the country's military and civilian nuclear facilities.

The Americans' insistence on a full, and not as initially stated, phased separation plan was the initial bone of contention, with the nuclear establishment particularly worried about the pressure to place the fast breeder reactors on the civilian program that will be subject to intrusive IAEA inspections under the additional protocol.

The initial assurance that India will be recognized as a nuclear weapons state on par with US is also not being met, leading to deep apprehension among the scientists that the country's nuclear program is being brought 'through the back door' under a stringent inspections regime, reported a leading English daily Asian Age here Wednesday.

The media is being used now by both the Americans and the Prime Minister's Office, through select briefings, to push the deal forward although, as well-placed sources pointed out, 'it has run into trouble' and will require Dr Manmohan Singh's direct intervention by accepting key US conditions to push it out of the woods.

The PMO officials have reportedly made it apparent that they would like the separation plans to be finalized, and the agreement to be placed on course for the approval of the US Congress before the visit of US President George W. Bush to India.

The civilian nuclear agreement was based on three major assurances that have since been overruled by Washington. One, as the sources pointed out, was the voluntary identification and separation of military and civilian facilities. Two, that this would be done in phases. Three, India would be recognized as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology status at par with the US. The voluntary nature of the agreement has been lost, with the Bush administration clear that the separation plans had to be vetted and approved by it.

The sources pointed out that the second assurance too has been negated with the US demand that the separation plans should be complete and immediate.

The US condition now that the safeguards should be 'in perpetuity', the sources added, makes a mockery of the third assurance as it denies recognition of India as a responsible nuclear power.

The whispers of unhappiness with the civilian nuclear agreement from the Department of Atomic Energy surfaced during this visit of US pointperson Nicholas Burns, who led a large team of officials for consultations with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. A third round of talks is scheduled for February, although Burns did not sound very optimistic of a breakthrough and admitted that certain difficulties had cropped up.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is reportedly very keen to get this agreement through as it is being equated with his earlier stint in government when he had ushered in -- as his media adviser Sanjaya Baru often tells journalists -- a new era of economic reforms.

There is genuine fear in the pro-nuclear lobby that India's strategic interests will be compromised if the US proposals are accepted in entirety, with sources pointing out that the very idea of separating the civilian program from the military was fraught with consequences that would undermine the nation's nuclear sovereignty.

The face-off on the fast breeder program that is seen as unique by the nation's nuclear establishment and other aspects of the agreement will need a prime ministerial directive to resolve, with sources pointing out that any such move might not have the support of the nuclear establishment.

... Payvand News - 1/25/06 ... --

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