India has completed all the requirements for membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the US told the Indian side during the discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama.
This brings India much closer to becoming part of the global nuclear system, and essential if India has to access nuclear and dual-use technologies in fields as diverse as pharmaceuticals and space. India has been negotiating for membership to NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group for the past few years.
Meanwhile, the contact group on civil nuclear issues will have its first meeting within weeks, said sources. On the Indian side, it will have key officials from MEA, DAE and NPCIL, while on the US side, it will involve officials from their department of energy (DoE), and lawyers and technical experts.
Modi has reportedly let it be known that he wants an early resolution to the outstanding issues, which can speed up the growth of nuclear power. India has believed for a while that the quest for clean energy, a big part of Modi's agenda, is not possible without nuclear power.
The two sides will wrestle through a couple of big issues. On the US side, the administrative arrangements on the civil nuclear deal with India involves the thorny aspect of their insistence that they have the right to track nuclear fuel through the entire nuclear process. India will not agree. But a resolution on this is imperative because on this hinges the fate of two other nuclear agreements - with Japan and Australia.
On the Indian side, the effort will be to convince the US that the liability law is not a constraint. The Indian government is in the process of drawing up a detailed list of components, specifying the amount of liability and its timespan. Its supposed to define precisely the scope of the liability law, but so far even Indian companies are not impressed.