M A I N   N E W S

After 34 years, India free to do nuke trade
Ajay Kaul

Bush praises Singh’s ‘strong leadership’
New Delhi: US President George W. Bush today praised the "strong leadership" of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the success at the NSG which granted a waiver for India to conduct nuclear commerce. PMO sources said Bush spoke to Singh over the phone and praised him for his "strong leadership" and the way he had handled the issue with dignity. — PTI

Vienna, September 6
India today secured a historic waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) by consensus to carry out nuclear commerce ending 34 years of isolation and taking the Indo-US nuclear deal a step closer to fruition.

Overcoming fierce obstacles after three days of tortuous negotiations that saw China, Austria, Ireland and New Zealand holding out till the last minute, the revised US draft finally got the approval of the 45-member NSG.

The deal will now go to the US Congress for approval in the next few weeks before it can be operationalised.

A relieved US President George W. Bush spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over telephone from Washington and praised his “strong leadership” for the success at the NSG.

The call came shortly after the nuclear cartel’s approval at the end of unscheduled extended discussions.

“After protracted negotiations, the NSG today adopted an exemption for nuclear exports to India,” the Austrian foreign ministry said in a statement climaxing months of lobbying by the US and India to get the atomic trade embargo lifted.

The US was euphoric after the NSG decision with its acting Secretary of State for Arms Control John Rood saying the NSG waiver was a “landmark decision” and an “important moment” for strengthening the global non-proliferation regime.

External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement yesterday that India was committed to strengthening the non-proliferation regime and maintaining a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing played a crucial role in bringing on board the sceptics.

Austria said it was one of the last countries to agree only after India’s “formal declaration” yesterday standing by its non-proliferation commitments. India faced nuclear apartheid following the 1974 Pokharan nuclear tests. The unprecedented decision of the cartel giving exemption to India which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was widely described as a landmark step.

“There is a sense of relief. I am particularly happy that the waiver (for India) meets with international nuclear non-proliferation architecture,” Peter Launsky, Austrian foreign ministry spokesman told reporters after the negotiations went down to the wire.

China, which had last night joined the sceptic countries, today did not oppose the waiver but raised some questions regarding specific issues. Diplomats said some changes were made to the revised draft of the waiver to assuage concerns of the sceptic countries, but details were not available yet.

Hectic behind-the-scene negotiations marked the diplomatic triumph for India in which the US played a major part by talking to the naysayers in extended late night discussions.

The four countries were initially not fully satisfied with the statement and wanted India’s latest commitment to be incorporated in the US-steered draft waiver. They also wanted the inclusion of the consequences that would follow a nuclear test. But India had been opposed to the inclusion of any conditionalities which it felt would undermine its sovereign right to undertake a nuclear test. New Delhi is not a member of the NSG, which takes decisions on the principle of consensus.

The breakthrough came after the US President personally intervened to lobby with allies at the nuclear group to approve the trade waiver after the killer amendments cropped up.

“The US government engaged in an intense diplomatic effort,” Rood said. Members of the NSG approached the issue in a serious manner, he said. “Countries had particular concerns, particular historical experience”, but they approached the issue with the required “constructive and cooperative” attitude, Rood added.

He appreciated the NSG members for their willingness to approach the dialogue in a manner in which “even with regard to most serious concerns, there was willingness to find a way, to reach a kind of compromise that is necessary in multilateral negotiations.”

Asked what the main factor that led to the breakthrough was, Launsky said yesterday’s statement of Mukherjee had assuaged the concerns of Austria and the like-minded members.

The relief is also there for Austria particularly in the Indian government’s plan for the separation of 14 power plants that will come under the inspection of the UN atomic watchdog IAEA, he said.

Austria also issued a statement saying it withdrew its objections after Mukherjee’s statement which, it said, was decisive. The US officials also contended that transferring nuclear technology to India would bring its atomic programme under closer scrutiny and boost international non-proliferation efforts.

The naysayers pushed hard for three conditionalities in the event of India conducting an atomic test before they relent. These were the termination of trade, stoppage of transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology and an annual review of the agreement.

Britain said it was happy that a compromise had been reached. — PTI





July 18, 2005: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush reach civil nuclear cooperation understanding.

March 3, 2006: Bush visits India and meets Manmohan Singh. They agree on India’s nuclear separation plan.

December 8-9: Both Houses of the US Congress passed the final version of the nuclear deal,

August 3, 2007: India and the US simultaneously release the text of the bilateral accord, called the 123 agreement,

July 9, 2008: Left parties withdraw support to the UPA government after the Prime Minister announces India is going to the IAEA for safeguards agreement,

July 22: Manmohan Singh wins trust vote in the Lok Sabha after the Samajwadi Party decides to support the UPA regime.

August 1: The IAEA board of governors approves India-specific safeguards agreement,

August 21-22: Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting on India-specific waiver fails to evolve a consensus,

September 4-6: The NSG gives nod to India to undertake nuclear trade after three days of negotiations.



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