M A I N   N E W S

US: We’ll push for clean waiver
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The Indo-US nuclear deal is facing rough weather amid growing impression in official circles that Washington is not doing enough to fulfil its commitment to get a clean NSG waiver for India.

And in a bid to dispel this impression, US Ambassador David C. Mulford today asserted that the Bush Administration would stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with New Delhi in rapidly completing the remaining steps to conclude the nuclear deal.

With the August 21-22 NSG meeting on waiver ending in a deadlock in Vienna, the US has started the exercise of effecting some changes in the draft of the waiver, that would be acceptable to both India and the countries, which opposed an amendment in the NSG rules to accommodate India in the nuclear mainstream without being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

As a part of the initiative, visiting US assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher this afternoon met Gayatri I. Kumar, joint secretary (Americas) in the External Affairs Ministry. He is expected to meet Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran tomorrow.

Approached by waiting reporters outside the South Block, Boucher declined to say anything on the nature of his talks with the Indian officials.

Apparently rattled by the strong position taken by countries like Austria, New Zealand, Ireland and Switzerland against a clean waiver to India, the US Envoy, in a brief statement, hinted at the possibility of President George W. Bush personally taking up the issue with leaders of these nations before the NSG reconvenes on September 4-5.

“Ahead of the scheduled NSG plenary on September 4, the US and India will continue our vigorous joint advocacy for the initiative at the highest levels of NSG governments,’’ he emphasised.

The ambassador said “The US and India stand shoulder-to-shoulder in their desire for a clean exemption and we will continue to work with our Indian partners to persuade the NSG countries that such an exemption is in the international community’s best interests.’’

Foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon, who is in Washington, will hold talks with US under secretary of state for political affairs William Burns in Washington later today to see if the language of the draft could be fine-tuned, to include the concerns of the sceptics at the NSG about testing..

Government sources said India had conveyed it to Washington that it would resist any changes in the draft, which would not be in conformity with the July 18, 2005, agreement between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Even before the NSG session, India had made it quite clear to the US that the domestic political situation would not allow it to go beyond a point in making adjustments. The situation has now become much more difficult with the BJP and the Left parties launching sharp attacks on the governments for the ‘failure’ in Vienna.

Sensing that the opposition parties could create a storm over the issue in the coming days, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee has already gone on record, saying India will not accept prescriptive conditionalities that can sabotage the deal. Mukherjee has been in constant touch with the Indian diplomatic team, which was in Vienna to lobby with the NSG countries for a clean waiver.

As the suspense continues over the fate of the historic deal, an official said: “The Americans had promised us a clean NSG exemption since we are ourselves not a member of the cartel…it is now up to them to execute the draft which had been agreed upon after difficult negotiations.’’



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