23 August 2008

Dateline Vienna: India says NSG clearance is U.S. responsibility

The ball for the Nuclear Suppliers Group game is firmly in the U.S. court, say Indian officials who argue its now time for Washington to deliver on the promise in made to India in July 2005...

The Hindu

India says NSG clearance is U.S. responsibility

Siddharth Varadarajan

Cartel to meet again in two weeks to consider amended waiver

Vienna: The United States’ inability to deliver a key part of its side of the July 2005 nuclear bargain with New Delhi became apparent on Friday as the Nuclear Suppliers Group ended an extraordinary plenary meeting without reaching agreement on a proposal to waive its restrictive export guidelines for India.

More crucially, the fact that India will now be asked to accept changes in the draft waiver that could conceivably limit the scope of nuclear cooperation or place conditions on it of one kind or another suggests the three-year-old nuclear deal could well be approaching its most serious break point to date.

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is now set to fly directly to Washington from Vienna to discuss the issues which arose in the NSG meeting and examine the American proposals, if any, for a change in the wording of the waiver. But it is apparent that there is little scope for India to accommodate the kind of demands a number of NSG countries made in the two-day meeting.

“Things are really very clear,” a senior Indian official told The Hindu when asked for his reaction to the NSG stalemate. “There was an agreement in 2005 in which we both made certain commitments. We have delivered on all of ours. Now the Americans have to deliver the NSG,” he said, “not us.” In the July 2005 statement, President George W. Bush committed himself to “work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India.” Indian officials say securing NSG clearance by extracting further commitments from India or diluting the scope of cooperation was not part of the bargain.

The NSG, which consists of 45 countries and takes all its decisions by consensus, will now meet again here on September 4 and 5 to reconsider the India question on the basis of a new draft waiver that the U.S. has said it will bring to the group. The dates were informally agreed to but found no mention in the brief communiqué issued by the NSG, presumably because the U.S. needs to secure India’s concurrence to any language change before it is able to come before the suppliers group again.

“Participating governments exchanged views in a constructive manner, and agreed to meet again in the near future to continue their deliberations,” the NSG statement simply noted.

Asked what sort of amendments the American side was asked to make by those NSG countries that were critical of the original proposal, a European diplomat told The Hindu that a number of states had made suggestions on virtually every aspect of the draft. “I think the whole thing will be reformulated, but in a positive way,” he said, requesting that he and his country not be identified out of respect for the NSG’s rules of confidentiality.

Another diplomat said the NSG raised concerns on nuclear testing, adherence to NPT full-scope safeguards, the need for a review mechanism to assess Indian compliance, as well as restrictions on enrichment and reprocessing technology. “There was a reference in the earlier U.S. draft to the desirability of India eventually accepting the NPT and its safeguards that was more positive than what we have now,” the diplomat said. “So, I think America will have to come back to us with a new draft before any decision is possible.”

Speaking to reporters at the end of the meeting, acting U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control John D. Rood said the U.S. was “pleased with the results of the discussion” and remained “very optimistic” about continuing to make progress “towards this important goal” of permitting civilian nuclear cooperation with India. He noted that “many delegations spoke about this important question” and said the India waiver would “remain something the group continues to work through in a serious manner.”

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