Govt holds high-level meeting on N- issue | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Govt holds high-level meeting on N- issue

With the NSG draft set to be amended because of demands from some member countries, government holds a high-level meeting to analyse the new development and discuss options available to it.

delhi Updated: Aug 24, 2008 21:54 IST

With the NSG draft set to be amended because of demands from some member countries, government in New Delhi on Sunday held a high-level meeting to analyse the new development and discuss options available to it.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee held hour- long discussions with the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Nuclear Deal Shyam Saran and senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and Department of Atomic Energy on the issue here.

Saran, who returned from Vienna where Nuclear Suppliers Group held two-day meeting on the issue of proposed waiver for India, apprised Mukherjee about the deliberations of the 45-nation grouping on August 21-22 which failed to arrive at any decision.

"I briefed the minister about the developments there (in Vienna)," Saran told PTI after the meeting but refused to elaborate.

The former Foreign Secretary, who was part of Indian delegation that held a special session with NSG countries in Vienna to put forth India's case, is understood to have conveyed to Mukherjee the kind of questions raised by some members over grant of exemption to India.

The meeting came on the eve of Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon's discussions with US officials in Washington over the amendments to the draft which is to be brought back to the NSG at its next meeting expected on September 4-5.

Amid apprehensions here that the amendments could include some elements that could bind India, Mukherjee yesterday made it clear that New Delhi will not accept any "prescriptions from NSG."

At the NSG meeting some members, citing non- proliferation concerns, are believed to have sought inclusion of language that will address their apprehensions with regard to granting a waiver to a country that is not a signatory to the NPT.

New Zealand, Austria and Switzerland have been the particularly keen on the wording that will ensure that India does not misuse the special exemption as they are aware of its strategic nuclear programme.

The sceptic countries want the draft to mention that India will be denied the enrichment and reprocessing right and that the exemption would be withdrawn if New Delhi conducts a nuclear test in the future.

Discussions with regard to the amendments will be held here also tomorrow when US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher meets officials of MEA.

Boucher told reporters in Mumbai on Friday that amendments to the draft were essential as "we have to listen" to the countries have objections.

The demands for amendments to the draft came despite India seeking to allay fears, citing its impeccable record on the non-proliferation front and declaration of unilateral moratorium on atomic tests.

The draft, that was presented by the US at the NSG meeting in Vienna, had been finalised after tough negotiations between Washington and New Delhi.

New Delhi has already said that it would walk out if the draft included some language that would bind it for ever.