Deal Within a Deal?
Ashish Kumar Sen from Washington
Members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group privately agreed not to sell “sensitive technologies” to India, a decision that convinced opponents of the civil nuclear deal to eventually back the initiative, according to a report in the Washington Post.
The Post noted, “The agreement undercuts one of the Indian government's key rationales for seeking a civilian nuclear deal with the United States — that it would open the door for 'full civil nuclear cooperation' with the rest of the world.”
The NSG's previously undisclosed understanding helped persuade several skeptical member states to support a waiver authorising nuclear trade with India, the paper said, citing sources familiar with the discussions. "In the discussions about how to handle enrichment and reprocessing, it was made clear that nobody had any plans to transfer such technologies to India in the foreseeable future," said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was describing private diplomatice changes.
The NSG is also reportedly“nearing consensus” on a total ban on sensitive sales to countries such as India that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The move would “put such trade even further out of New Delhi's reach,” the Post noted. Ireland, New Zealand and Austria were the last of the three NSG members to oppose the India-specific waivers sought for the deal.
In a message to Congress on Wednesday, President George W. Bush said U.S. commitments on a “reliable supply of nuclear fuel” are merely “political commitments" and not “legally binding commitments.” This means an uninterrupted fuel supply would depend on individual presidents. Both presidential candidates – Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama – have expressed their support for the deal.
At the State Department, an official said Bush had determined that India was adhering to the NSG and Missile Technology Control Regime
(MTCR) guidelines. On September 5, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stated: “India has taken the necessary steps to secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and through harmonization and committing to adhere to MTCR and NSG guidelines.”
The U.S. official noted Bush notified Congress, as required under the Hyde Act of 2006, that India has harmonized and has adhered “in
accordance with the procedures of those regimes for unilateral adherence.”
Meanwhile, support built on Capitol Hill for the speedy passage of the nuclear deal. Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was pleased Bush had submitted the package to India and added his committee would “act promptly to review the agreement in a hearing, as soon as next week.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this week in connection with the deal, told reporters on Thursday she hoped “work can be done so that we can take it up.” Noting the deal has support in Congress, Pelosi said it must “honour the principles of” the Hyde Act, which laid down the framework of U.S.-India nuclear commerce.
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, who chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, circulated a letter urging fellow lawmakers in the House of Representatives to approve the deal. “We should recognize both the historic nature of this deal and the emerging strategic importance of India in global affairs,” Wilson wrote.
In remarks clearly directed at critics of the deal who believe it is a proliferation risk and could lead to a nuclear arms race, Wilson maintained India has an “excellent record on nonproliferation and its nuclear weapons program is solely designed as a deterrent, based on India ’s own legitimate security assessments.”