31 August 2008

India, U.S. agree on amended NSG draft waiver

Germany, as chair, circulates text among group members, all eyes now focused on September 4-5 meeting of the Nuclear Suupliers Group...

31 August 2008
The Hindu

India, U.S. agree on amended NSG draft waiver

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: After 24 hours of negotiations, India and the United States reached agreement on Friday night on the text of the revised American proposal seeking a waiver for India from the export guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The Hindu has learned that the final text of the revised proposal has been handed over to Germany — NSG chair for 2008 — and has already been made available to the club’s 45 countries.

Although the NSG tentatively set September 4-5 for its next meeting when it last met in Vienna on August 21-22, a handful of States are asking for more time to study the new proposal. However, with the Bush administration anxious to complete the NSG stage of the nuclear deal so that the ‘123 agreement’ with India can be handed over to Congress by September 8, Berlin is expected to announce the immediate convening of the cartel’s extraordinary plenary on Monday.

In keeping with the sensitivity of NSG members upset at the ‘premature’ leak of the draft waiver’s details last time around, American officials are anxious that the new proposal’s contents not be made public until member States have had a chance to assess the draft individually first.

In the previous meeting, the draft came under attack from several countries seeking stronger language reflecting their non-proliferation concerns. More than 50 amendments were proposed, and the U.S. undertook to evolve a new draft in consultation with India.

This time around, the U.S. and India are hoping for a smoother ride. In particular, they hope countries dissatisfied with the revised draft will settle for a compromise in which the waiver is adopted by consensus but their national concerns are reflected in a statement by the NSG chair.

Though the new draft is under wraps, the statements National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan made to the journalist Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN on Friday evening provide a glimpse into India’s stand as the draft was being finalised. In the interview, to be broadcast on Sunday, Mr. Narayanan said ways would be found around the demand for an explicit reference to nuclear testing as a condition for termination of cooperation by the NSG. “We have always made this point that testing is a word that we find difficult to adjust with ... So, we will find ways around it,” he said.

Asked about the demand by some countries for an NSG bar on the export of enrichment and reprocessing technology to India, Mr. Narayanan noted the group did not explicitly ban such exports for anybody. “Definitely, we don’t want ourselves to be singled out for this ... [If] any country does not wish to give us enrichment and reprocessing technologies and still wishes to have nuclear commerce, we’ll draw up our guidelines according to that. What we don’t want is each country’s individual predilections forming a huge package of items in the NSG exemptions.”

As for the demand for the NSG to make a periodic review of its India waiver, the NSA said this was “uncalled for.”

Mr. Narayanan indicated India had no objection to the NSG chair making a statement containing “prescriptive suggestions” so long as it did not affect the waiver. “If the Chairman is making a statement which reflects, to some extent, some of [the concerns of NSG states], may be. But as long as it does not inhibit us from what we believe is a clean and unconditional exemption,” he said.

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