India could still walk away from the civil nuclear deal with the United States if the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) chooses to insist on New Delhi submitting to eventual full-scope safeguards on all its nuclear facilities.
Senior officials told HT that India’s strategic nuclear programme was non-negotiable and New Delhi would not open all its nuclear reactors for international inspection.
That was central to India’s separation plan, where it had promised to place 14 out of its 22 reactors under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Though the US has reportedly dropped a reference to India acceding to full-scope safeguards in the draft circulated to NSG nations, the fear in South Block is that smaller countries like Ireland, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand might try to re-introduce such a clause.
India, however, is pushing ahead with all its diplomatic energies to convince NSG countries that this deal is in the interests of the international community just as it is in New Delhi's interests.
A shot-in-the-arm for India has come from Canada, which now favours waiving NSG requirements for India, which bar member states from engaging in nuclear trade with a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“And India has come a long way in terms of democracy and the rule of law, and the nuclear constellation of issues has evolved to the point where we just can’t continue with our position that has been absolute and negative to allowing India back into the nuclear club, as it were,” Canada’s Foreign Minister David Emerson told The Globe and Mail recently.
Laying out the perspective ahead of the August 21-22 meeting of the NSG at Vienna, the officials said India would have a presence at the session though it was not yet clear whether it could be present as an ‘observer’.