M A I N   N E W S

3 NSG countries question waiver
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 21
Clouds of uncertainty hung over the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal today despite top Indian diplomats making a valiant attempt to address the concerns of NSG nations about the country’s nuclear programme, with New Zealand, Austria and Ireland remaining well-entrenched in the camp opposing an unconditional waiver for India.

The Indian team of diplomats, however, made it firmly clear to the NSG countries that New Delhi would not accept any changes in the US draft for getting clean exemption from the 45-strong cartel for undertaking nuclear commerce.

Foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon and Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran held a 30-minute briefing for the NSG members soon after the first session of the two-day special meeting of the cartel in Vienna, convened to consider waiver for India to allow it to join the international community in nuclear commerce.

Indian officials here expressed guarded optimism about the Indo-US nuclear deal securing the NSG nod tomorrow, when the meeting concludes. However, they were worried that New Zealand, Austria and Ireland were playing ‘spoilsport’ by not allowing the NSG to evolve a consensus in favour of the waiver. They expressed hope that the situation would change by tomorrow. They also drew some satisfaction from Ireland’s statement that it was aware of the importance attached to the nuclear deal by New Delhi and of the considerable support that exists for its energy diversification.

A senior external affairs ministry official said: “There could be another meeting of the NSG in early September but we expect the NSG waiver to come sooner than later. However, it is better to refrain from saying too much on the issue. We are keeping our fingers crossed.”

The official said New Zealand has been the most vocal country in opposing the NSG waiver on the contention that New Delhi has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). “One can understand New Zealand’s tough position since the country is soon going to the polls,’’ the official added.

The US, meanwhile, is using its clout to prevail on the ‘opposing’ countries to give up their reservations and support a consensus in favour of the waiver for India. US Ambassador to India David C. Mulford is also said to be in Vienna, lobbying with the NSG members. He is understood to have stated that a consensus on waiver would eventually come but it would not be that easy.

Top Indian diplomats are understood to have cited India’s impeccable track record with regard to non-proliferation to assert that the waiver would only strengthen the non-proliferation regime rather than weaken it.

Menon reportedly told the NSG members that India has in place strict export control regime besides other measures to guard against the transfer of dual-use technology or nuclear fuel to ineligible entities. Some of the questions posed to them apparently related to India’s reluctance to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and whether New Delhi could guarantee that it would not conduct a nuclear test.

After the collective briefing, Menon and Saran also met representatives of the NSG countries separately in groups. Participants at the meeting described it as a “good and useful” exercise.

Indian diplomats had also done some last minute lobbying last night, meeting representatives of the NSG ‘troika’ comprising Germany, South Africa and Hungary.

The NSG, which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology worldwide, met for its formal meeting at the headquarters of Japan’s permanent mission to the IAEA in Vienna to debate the US proposal for a special waiver for India, which currently cannot receive foreign nuclear materials and technology as it has not signed the NPT.

The Indo-US nuclear deal has already been given the green light by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which approved a special safeguards agreement with India. But the deal must now also clear the NSG hurdle before it is voted on in US Congress for its operationalisation. US officials said they were hoping to get as wide an approval as possible so that they could move on with regard to having this agreement for the Congress to look at.

Asked to comment on reservations by some NSG member nations, the US officials said: “We think this agreement is very good for the United States and India and for the international community, otherwise we would not be pursuing it.”



We need to be patient: Mulford

Vienna: The US today seemed to suggest that the waiver from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for India to conduct nuclear commerce with other countries may not not come at the current deliberations. US Ambassador to India David C Mulford, who is here for meetings on the sidelines of the two-day NSG meeting considering India's case ending tomorrow, told NDTV that Washington thinks that eventually a consensus would be arrived at on the issue but it does not not know how quickly. “This won't be easy, we need to be patient,” he said adding “it is quite early to say how the NSG talks will go”. — PTI



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