M A I N   N E W S

Crucial NSG meet today
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
With New Zealand, Ireland and Austria refusing to give up their reservations over the Indo-US nuclear deal, top Indian diplomats in Vienna have their task cut out before a two-day crucial meeting of the nuclear suppliers’ group (NSG) tomorrow to consider waiver for nuclear trade with India.

Foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon and Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran will have to use all their persuasive skills to convince these countries, which are proving to be a stumbling block in the 45-member cartel, giving a clean exemption to India to end its more than three decades of nuclear isolation.

On the eve of the two-day NSG session, officials at the South Block here are keeping their fingers crossed over the outcome of the meeting that will decide the fate of the nuclear deal.

The three countries, which are in the forefront of raising objections to the exemption, are seeking to introduce certain conditions to the draft circulated by the US for consideration by the NSG. These conditions include a firm commitment from India that it will not undertake any future testing and a provision for a periodic review that India is abiding by all its commitments made under the exemption.

Indian officials here assert that New Delhi will not accept any changes in the US draft. They are quite confident that the Indian diplomatic team in Vienna will succeed in bringing these countries around the view that giving exemption to India is in the overall interest of a global non-proliferation regime.

The officials say they are expecting that a formula will be worked out, which will be acceptable to the countries that have reservations about giving exemption to India.

Menon and Saran are scheduled to meet the NSG ‘troika’ comprising Germany, South Africa and Hungary ahead of the 45-nation grouping’s meeting tomorrow. Germany is the current chairman of the NSG.

Since India is not a member of the cartel, it has decided not to address the NSG’s plenary tomorrow, despite Germany’s request to do so. Menon will hold a separate presentation for the NSG members tomorrow morning before they go into formal talks.

Though details of the presentation have not been disclosed, the Indian team is expected to address the concerns of the NSG members regarding India’s commitments and policies on non-proliferation and allay their apprehensions.

India obviously desires the waiver to come on August 22, as that will enable the US to take the nuke deal to the US Congress as quickly as possible. However, indications coming from Vienna suggest that the waiver might not come at the first meeting and a second session of the cartel could be held in early September.

News reports from New Zealand, meanwhile, have been far from comforting for New Delhi. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was quoted as saying that her country, as a nuclear-free state, was concerned about the deal. “It would be no secret that we would like to see more conditions around the agreement. We are pursing this diplomatically,” she said.

Austria’s Green Party, the third largest political party after the socialists and the conservatives, has planned a demonstration outside the venue of the NSG meeting in Vienna tomorrow. “We will hold banners saying -- Have the courage to say no to the India-US nuclear deal. We will make anti-nuclear speeches and demand that the NSG say no to the nuclear ambitions of India and the US,” said Ulrike Lunacek of the Green Party.

Ireland, which has openly expressed reservations over the NSG granting an exemption to India, has still not indicated any change in its stand. “We are currently examining the text of the US proposal circulated recently for an exemption, an Irish official said, even as he appreciated India’s growing energy needs.

Besides the US, France is also helping New Delhi to hard sell the deal among the NSG members. Other major countries like Russia and Britain also support the NSG giving nod to New Delhi. France currently holds the presidency of the European Union (EU) and it has done more than its bit in persuading the grouping’s members to support the Indo-US nuclear deal.aHowever, China has still not revealed its mind though it has time and again expressed its desire for civilian nuclear energy cooperation with India. 


Boucher: We are committed
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

As some countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group expressed concern about a deal that allows nuclear commerce between the US and India, a Bush administration official says Washington is committed to securing a clean and unconditional waiver for India at the Vienna-based organisation.

In an interview on Tuesday, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Richard Boucher, said: “We will certainly push as hard as we can for a clean exemption and if anything needs to be considered we will consider it together with India.”

This week, New Zealand said it had concerns about the text of the draft agreement placed before the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Boucher said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in New Zealand recently and had discussed some of these concerns. However, he was not surprised that questions remain. “Countries are going to want to raise issues, get questions answered and record their views in terms of their own policies, their own commitment to non-proliferation and making non-proliferation work. So we may have to look for ways to allow people to express themselves without in any way hampering or impinging the cooperation with India,” Boucher said.

“India has been answering a lot of questions and we have been answering a lot of questions,” he added.

The NSG will consider the nuclear deal in a special meeting on August 21. Boucher said “there are a lot of people who say we probably will” need a second session of the NSG to win the group’s approval.

Meanwhile, Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Ellen O. Tauscher, a California Democrat, warned the NSG against approving the India-specific waiver as presented in the draft.

Markey, who is co-chairman of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Non-proliferation, and Tauscher, chairperson of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, wrote in the New York Times that, “If the president gets his way, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty - for 50 years, the bulwark against the spread of nuclear weapons - would be shredded and India’s yearly nuclear weapons production capability would likely increase from seven bombs to 40 or 50.”

They said if the NSG accedes to President George Bush’s “dangerous request, countries such as Iran and North Korea would certainly use the precedent to their advantage.”

The lawmakers said the nuclear deal “threatens international security not only by undermining our nuclear rules, but also by expanding India’s nuclear weapons programme.”

They said the NSG can approve the deal if two conditions are met. “First, India must sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Second, India must agree to halt production of nuclear material for weapons.”

Boucher contended that the deal strengthened the non-proliferation regime. The US, which has offered to shepherd the deal, and India have been working on two levels at the NSG. “First, we understand that this is different from your standard non-proliferation activity. So a lot of countries have a lot of questions about where this deal fits in the general non-proliferation framework that we have got and does it contribute to that framework,” Boucher said, adding, “We think it absolutely does and therefore we want to go forward with it.”

Secondly, he said, both the US and India have been talking to countries on a more political level. “Clean energy for economic growth, carbon emissions and India’s cooperation more broadly with the West are important factors for a lot of people,” he said. “We have been trying to keep that dialogue going and would like to do so all the way through,” said Boucher.



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