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India downplays US comment on cutting off fuel supplies

September 19, 2008 22:52 IST

Notwithstanding the American contention that fuel assurances to New Delhi [Images] were mere political commitments, India on Friday maintained that its civil nuclear cooperation with the US will be governed by the 123 agreement under which the supplies are guaranteed.

"I will not comment on their internal political process. As far as we are concerned, it is the 123 agreement, when it enters into force, which will govern the bilateral relations (in civil nuclear area)," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said.

US Senate hearing on N-deal starts

He was asked to react to the contention of top US officials, including Under Secretary of State William Burns, that America's nuclear fuel supply assurances to India are a political commitment and the government cannot 'legally compel' US firms to sell a given product to New Delhi.

"We are not participating in their political processes nor will I comment on what happens in that process," Menon said.

'Let N-deal process take its course or ...' -

New Delhi has asserted that the 123 agreement, once operational, will be a legal document.

Menon denied media reports that India had sought membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime but noted that New Delhi had put in place measures under which most of the guidelines of the MTCR are adhered to.

'India has right to test, US has right to respond'

"We have made commitments in January 2004 to adhere to export control standards of MTCR. Those standards we have adhered to... We will not violate those standards," he said.

He pointed out that in the 2005, India had incorporated these standards in various regulations.

India has not got membership or applied for membership of the MTCR, the Foreign Secretary said.

Lawmakers question India's non-proliferation track record

Similarly, he said India had harmonised its export control on nuclear related, particularly the trigger-items, with the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines.

To a question on signing of Additional Protocol on Safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Menon said discussions have begun on this aspect and the two sides have exchanged ideas and concepts to be included in the document.

Coverage: Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Quoting IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei, he said there has been "substantial progress" in the discussions.

He said India will have to sign the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA before operationalising any pact with any country like France [Images] and Russia [Images].

"Actions will proceed in parallel. Exact details will depend on our partners," Menon said.

Asked about French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont's [Images] contention that fuel supply assurances were not covered under the Framework Agreement initialed by India and France, Menon agreed, saying it is just an enabling pact.

"We need to enter into concrete agreements... that is what he (the envoy) must have pointed to," the Foreign Secretary said.

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