India and the United States began talks Friday on implementing a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement reached by the two countries in July, an Indian official said.
Private energy companies in the United States are eager to seal billion-dollar (euro) deals with India to build nuclear power plants. But they have been held back by U.S. domestic export controls that were tightened in the wake of India's nuclear tests in 1998.
On Friday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns was set to hold a one-day meeting with his Indian counterpart, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, to draw up a plan letting U.S. energy companies help India build nuclear reactors to meet its burgeoning energy needs, Indian officials said.
A working group of Indian and U.S. officials, assigned to follow up on the July 18 India-U.S. agreement, was set to meet on Friday, said India's foreign ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna said.
Saran heads the working group from the Indian side, Sarna said, while Burns leads the U.S. side.
The landmark July 18 agreement, reached by U.S. President George W. Bush and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, would also allow U.S. companies to supply nuclear fuel for the reactors.
In return, India has said it would separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities, comply with safeguards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency and open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
Before American civilian nuclear technology can be sent to India, the U.S. Congress must enact legislation to amend a U.S. law that bans civilian nuclear cooperation with countries that have not submitted to full nuclear inspections.
Energy-starved India has been looking for new power sources, and wants to build more nuclear power plants to meet the needs of its more than 1 billion people, reports the AP.