06 September 2008

Dateline Vienna: NSG update @ 2 a.m.

After a marathon day -- starting at 10 a.m. on Friday and finally peeling off at two in the morning on Saturday -- the Nuclear Suppliers Group plenary was still working through the objections of a handful of member states to the American proposal for an exception to be made for India from the cartel's export guidelines.

The meeting will resume at 11 a.m. on Saturday, local time, amidst signs that the United States is really keen to get the job done.

Till quite late in the night, delegates sauntered in and out to smoke or buy dinner, but generally refused to be drawn in to discussions with the pack of hacks outside. I asked one hapless dip at 11 pm what on earth was going on inside the meeting. He said, "Actually, we don't really know. It's the big players who are talking". By players, did he mean countries? No, he said. "I mean Presidents and Ministers. There are phone calls being made to try and get every country on board".


Anonymous said...

As a Nuclear Weapons State, China has the smallest nuclear arsenal - roughly 200 warheads that constitute a minimum means of retaliation.

To date, China has had no need to significantly alter this posture or to increase their stockpile of weapons, comfortable in the knowledge that it is sufficient for deterrence.

Top India officials, on the other hand, have openly stated that their aspirations are to build four hundred or more nuclear warheads – a quantity far in excess of the needs to deter or decimate their rival Pakistan.

Getting an India only "exemption" from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and not signing the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will enable India to do just that.

Resumed Indian nuclear weapons testing will mean that they will perfect thermo-nuclear weapons with multi megaton yields --- effectively the ability to kill millions of people in an urban area with one single warhead.

Indian ICBMs can now reach most Chinese cities, and with more nuclear testing, India can build miniaturized thermo nuclear warheads that can basically reach any city in the world.

India tells their neighbors to take a leap of faith and trust India's intentions to be peaceful and pledge not to conduct more nuclear weapons tests indefinitely into the future.

Yet at the same time, India have spared no expense and left no stone unturned in pressing to be exempt from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime that every country except India, Pakistan and Israel abide by.

Prime Minister Singh and President Bush are now both personally calling the leaders of the six "holdout" countries to lobby them to pass the US-India nuclear deal in haste at the NSG.

This kind of lobbying is normally reserved for issues of great national significance and is inconsistent with India's claim that their intentions are entirely peaceful and benign.

If India has no intent to conduct nuclear weapons tests and a nuclear arms buildup, there is no reason why India and the US cannot postpone the deal and return to the NSG with a domestic Indian consensus in favor of a deal that facilitate peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy by India with appropriate international safeguards.

The political leadership of Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands need support more than ever to block the US-India deal.

China has a vital interest in limiting a new nuclear arms race in South Asia. It is time for the Chinese political leadership to up the ante, and show that Chinese leaders care enough about the issue to counter Manmohan Singh and G. W. Bush's pressure on six small, defenseless countries.

President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jia Bao, and Vice Premier Xi Jinping need to pick up the phone, encourage the leadership of Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands to hold their ground, and reassure them that China stands ready to step in and mitigate whatever damage India and the US might threaten them with.

Anonymous said...

Let us not compare China's already achieved nuclear status with proven capabilities in thermonuclear technology with India's fledgling beginnings in the area.
Also, China's expansionist attitude and clandestine support to Pak are known to the world.
India has shown to the world through its example, of being an ideal in the community of nations, maintaining self restraint even under provocative circumstances.
Let us understand and live with the realities of the world, rather than getting bogged down with unnecessary paranoia.
If India's future intentions can be better understood, by an understanding of its past and present, rather than projecting China's model on India!
Of course the past and present situation clearly dictates that India must brace up with enough defense capability, lest it would be splintered by attacks on all fronts!
So, there is no way that India can slacken on its strategic freedom, come what may.
By the way, this deal is for civil nuclear cooperation, and there need not be any restrictions (other than whatever be the bilateral agreements) imposed thru NSG.
World leaders need to talk it over to the so called like-minded group of three or six, to convince them to stay away from such distracting tactics, they are by any means the sole green peace keepers of any significance in the world!
The whole thing is a big drama to pressurize India into accepting more and more conditions.
India must just stay put with its earlier announced stand on all these issues.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


I'd like to understand the mechanics of the negotiations if you have any insight into them. How does the US get a country like, say, Austria to agree to terms? There has to be either carrots or sticks. What are carrots and what are the sticks?

(I cannot believe that negotiations are based on brilliant debates alone. If I'm Austria, I'll ask "Why should I support XYZ? How do I gain? Do I get (say) XXX billion dollars over 10 years in benefits with trade to India?)

Anonymous said...

NDTV in New Dehli reports that US President George Bush has called Chinese President Hu Jintao to seek China's support. However,the move apparently backfired as the Chinese delegation subsequently left the NSG meeting reportedly recalled by their government. Reports from Vienna suggest the Chinese are saying the NSG process must not be rushed to make a decision right away and that's the reason the delegation was recalled to Beijing. The action takes China out of the room without having to cast a "no" vote. It has the effect of a veto anyway since further delay by the NSG will put it out of position relative to action by the U.S. Congress.


Siddharth Varadarajan said...

NOTICE -- Please keep comments civil. I don't mind a debate but no abusive or racist language will be tolerated. I will delete your comment, as I have already done in one case.

LTR and other Chinese colleagues are welcome and even encouraged to post here and if you are Indian and/or anyone who disagrees, treat this as a golden opportunity to get into a constructive debate.

Anonymous said...

To Siddharth,

I fully agree with your last comments regarding the different voices in this thread. Some are not playing nice. Surely there are different opinions on this subject which is very important to India. Here is a place to exchange different views, not a place for self-murmuring. To have a better understanding of other countries' concerns is the right way to hammer out agreement. Thank you for your real time posts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Siddharth Varadarajan.

It may not have occurred to some of your readers that there are a lot more than Indian national interests at stake.

Suppose nuclear war broke out in South Asia.

Hundreds of millions of people of many nationalities will die and many more millions maimed.

Let us begin this discussion on the premise that a south Asian (including Indian, Pakistani, and others) is worth at least as much as an American or European or Chinese life.

If it means having to curb some nationalist ambitions to protect them, let us be prepared to do so.


Anonymous said...

Suppose nuclear war broke out in South Asia.

Hundreds of millions of people of many nationalities will die and many more millions maimed.

True. And there are those of use who think that the best way to avoid this calamity is by having strong nuclear deterrence. With the P-5 refusing to disarm, all other options to prevent this have failed. So our goals may be the same but we differ in our approach to this problem.

Let us begin this discussion on the premise that a south Asian (including Indian, Pakistani, and others) is worth at least as much as an American or European or Chinese life.

Idealistic statement from my POV. From a purely economic perspective, a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani life will not be worth the same as an American or European life until sometime in the 22nd century.

Anonymous said...

How can you preach non-proliferation and restraint to India with a straight face, when China exploded a 3 mega ton thermonuclear weapon way back in 1968, when it is building nuclear submarines and has blatantly proliferated in South Asia. More over months before CTBT opened for signatures China and France carried out a series of tests like kids doing last minute cramming before the exams. At least France did not have the hypocrisy to condemn India after its 1998 tests. But China carries on pontificating sickeningly...and that too playing on Indo-Pak contradictions much like the west has done.

Anonymous said...

The current Chinese posture and tactics in Vienna are sure to work against any kind of strategic detente between India and China and probably will drive India even more into the anti-china alliances. By the way Namibia,Belgian Congo, Niger and Uzbekistan which mine and export Uranium are not part of NSG but Austria, Switzerland, Ireland et alia are. Pray will someone explain what nuclear materials they supply to the world, unless it is nuclear wool and potatoes....

Rajesh said...

Siddharth, if you want to win over Austria, only one thing will work. You have to convince the Austrian Greens, that Ulrike Lunacek, has gone overboard with her demands for a complete rejection of the deal. Ursula Plassnik is only doing her bidding, because ÖVP (Austrian People's Party) need the Greens after the next elections, and she thinks Ulrike will her with that. They are pulling the same card, that Gerhard Schröder pulled in 2002 Elections, where his opposition to the USA on the question of Iraq War won him the elections.
Standing up to George Bush for the sake of principles is a sure winner.

The only thing that would convince the people that the Greens have taken politics overboard, is a first vote in the NSG (41-4), that Austria is really in a minority. Secondly USA should announce a consultative group of G-8 and Nuclear Outreach countries, Australia and India, (a parallel body, not necessarily trying to upsurp NSG) That is the only thing that would put Fear in the Hearts of Ireland, Austria and New Zealand.

That would get everybody's attention. Otherwise you can forget it. Austrians are not going to move. Even if you give them everything they want, they will still say, there is no Ice Cream.

Rajesh said...


Congratulations on extremely well covering the nuclear deal. Your comments were insightful and objective. When do you get to be the Editor? :-)