Washington: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush on 11 July discussed a long-stalled nuclear cooperation deal ahead of talks next week that US officials hope will finally close a deep rift over the agreement.
In a telephone call, the two leaders “discussed the transformation of our bilateral relationship, including the civil nuclear cooperation initiative,” White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.
He gave no details about the status of the deal, which was first announced in July 2005, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently predicted it could be wrapped up by the end of this year.
However, a congressional source who tracks the issue said the US-India negotiations “are not going well at all” with new areas of disagreement opening up.
The source questioned whether the accord could be completed before Bush leaves office in January 2009.
The much-heralded agreement would give India access to US nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in 30 years, even though New Delhi has tested nuclear weapons and never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Two senior Indian officials are due in Washington next Tuesday and Wednesday for meetings with Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, the lead US negotiator on the deal.
The agreement has become the touchstone of a new US-India relationship that Washington envisions as a pillar of 21st century international security.
US officials have not revealed much about their specific disagreements with New Delhi but key obstacles have included a US congressional mandate that Washington halt nuclear cooperation if India tests a nuclear weapon as it did in 1998.
Other disputed points have been the US refusal to give India prior approval to allow reprocessing of spent fuel with US components and to assure permanent fuel supplies.