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Caution, optimism as critical NSG talks draw near

india Updated: Aug 31, 2008 00:01 IST
Amit Baruah

In the end, it will be a political call. As suggestions fly back and forth between India and the US on acceptable language to get the civil nuclear deal through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the September 4-5 meeting of the NSG in Vienna will be critical.

More than ever, it looks like the UPA government would have to take a political decision on what might be acceptable or unacceptable to the country as far as civil nuclear cooperation is concerned.

A Western diplomat told the Hindustan Times that two or more reworked drafts were in circulation, but though prospects of the India exception had brightened, problems still remained.

A PTI report said Saturday that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held deliberations with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and senior party leader Ahmed Patel, on the nuclear issue ahead of the NSG meeting.

As the second NSG meeting approaches, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan told CNN-IBN in an interview that he was “optimistic” on getting an NSG waiver, but would not allow his “optimism to override caution”.

He made it clear that a reference to a fresh nuclear test by India leading to termination of cooperation remained a problem. “Testing would be difficult for us. So, we will find ways around it.”

“I think you should give some credit to creative diplomacy in these matters. I presume that we will find a way out of it,” the NSA stated.

Narayanan also made it clear that India wanted to ensure that the NSG did not specifically prohibit the supply of uranium reprocessing and enrichment technologies.

Presumably, if the NSG did not impose a specific ban, then India could work out bilateral agreements with countries that didn’t have a problem in sharing such technologies with New Delhi.

“What we don’t want is each country’s individual predilections forming a huge package of items in the NSG exemptions,” Narayanan told the TV channel.

The NSA was uncomfortable with the notion of a review clause being inserted by the NSG while granting India the required waiver. “We have put all our cards on the table…we don’t understand what is the need of a review.”

In a related development, the influential Nucleonics Week reported that if a reworked resolution was delayed till the end of this week, some NSG delegations had told the US, they would not have enough time to formulate a position by September 4.

The journal, which tracks developments in the nuclear industry, reported that about a quarter of the 45-strong NSG membership made proposals during the meeting last week, and about half the NSG members made statements in support of proposals.

“According to Scandinavian diplomatic sources last week, officials from Norway have strongly advocated that NSG set up a review process to monitor India’s compliance with conditions set by NSG for lifting sanctions,” the journal added.