26 August 2008

Mulford seeks to reassure India

Stung by criticism about not doing its bit to pilot the India waiver through the NSG, the U.S. is now making reassuring noises ...

26 August 2008
The Hindu

Mulford seeks to reassure India

As G-6 talks conditions, U.S. for ‘clean’ NSG waiver

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: With the perception gaining ground in official circles here that the United States pulled its punches at last week’s meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, U.S. Ambassador David C. Mulford sought to clear the air by insisting Washington was committed to “working with India to rapidly complete the remaining steps” necessary to conclude the civil nuclear cooperation initiative.

“The U.S. and India stand shoulder-to-shoulder in their desire for a clean exception and we will continue to work with our Indian partners to persuade the NSG countries that such an exemption is in the international community’s best interest,” he said on Monday.

However, despite New Delhi’s misgivings about additional conditions — reiterated by Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar in remarks to reporters in Mumbai on Sunday — Mr. Mulford did not promise that the waiver the U.S. must push through the NSG to allow nuclear commerce with India would be unconditional.

The Ambassador added that both the U.S. and India would “continue our vigorous joint advocacy for the initiative at the highest levels of NSG governments.”

Mr. Mulford’s assurance comes even as New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark reiterated at a press conference in Wellington on Monday her government’s intention of pressing for amendments to the draft discussed at the NSG last week. New Zealand is part of a group of six countries that acted in concert at the NSG meeting in Vienna last week demanding changes in the draft waiver. The other members of this group are Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.

In their opening statement to the closed-door meeting on August 21 — a copy of which is with The Hindu — the six warned that they would move “substantive amendments ... with a view to increasing the level of comfort with the proposed exemption.” All of these amendments, they said, “are based on concepts already enshrined in U.N. Security Council Resolutions, in domestic legislation of NSG Participating Governments, and in bilateral nuclear supply agreements which NSG [states] have concluded over the years.”

The reference to U.N. resolutions is clearly to UNSCR 1172, passed after the nuclear tests of 1998, which called on India to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And the ‘domestic legislation’ the six have in mind is the Hyde Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in December 2006, which sought to move the goalposts for nuclear cooperation envisaged by the July 2005 agreement in a manner unfavourable to India.

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