Richard Boucher to arrive in India today

New Delhi, Mar 4: US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Affairs Richard BoucherUS Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia Affairs Richard Boucher will arrive on a two-day visit here today.

The two countries are expected to review progress on implementation of the civil nuclear deal.

According to sources, Boucher is expected to meet the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Gayatri Kumar and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

It is expected that the nuclear issue would be the main topic of discussions and India would provide an update on its talks with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the safeguards agreement.

India and IAEA have had five rounds of negotiations after which the two countries have reported "considerable progress" and have moved further closer to the agreed text of the agreement.

Finalisation of the safeguard agreement with the IAEA is a key step towards operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

This has to be followed by the waiver by Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to allow India to have civil nuclear cooperation with the international community.

The US has been asking India to take a fast decision on the nuclear deal, as the prospects for completion of the deal are very bleak.

On Monday, the External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee while making suo motu statement on "foreign policy-related developments" in Parliament, said the government would continue to seek "broad political consensus within the country" to take forward such engagement with "other countries".

Mukherjee told Parliament that in the government's understanding, the Hyde Act was not binding on India.

"Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that the Hyde Act is an enabling provision that is between the executive and the legislative organs of the US government. India's rights and obligations regarding civil nuclear cooperation with the US arise only from the bilateral 123 Agreement that we have agreed upon with the US," he said.

The CPM reacted strongly to Mukherjee's statement, urging the government again "not to proceed with the nuclear deal". CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat rejected the new move to build consensus.

Asked whether the government could go ahead with the IAEA and NSG talks to broaden nuclear cooperation with countries other than the US, Karat said: "The IAEA agreement and NSG clearance cannot be separated from the US deal."

During Boucher's visit, the two sides will also discuss about the developments in Pakistan, Nepal and other countries in the region.

India and the US will also exchange views on the latest situation in the backdrop of recent elections there. (ANI)