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India confident N-deal will go through in Sept

Opposition within the NSG to the Indo-US nuclear deal has shrunk to just two countries, Austria and New Zealand, say diplomatic sources. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri reports.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2008 01:24 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Opposition within the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to the Indo-US nuclear deal has shrunk to just two countries, Austria and New Zealand, say diplomatic sources.

New Delhi is quite confident the next NSG session will see the 45-nation informal body agreeing to restore civilian nuclear commerce with India. <b1>

In Vienna, the Indian team had made clear their "red lines" regarding conditionalities. Namely, Delhi could not accept anything it had not committed itself to in the July 2005 joint statement by Manmohan Singh and US President George W Bush.

These included: the existing nuclear testing moratorium, no export of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology, and conforming to nonproliferation agreements like the IAEA Additional Protocol and Missile Technology Control Regime.

The conditionality India was most concerned about — the ban on ENR technology — was scuppered by two arguments. One, the NSG has never included such a clause in its guidelines. Two, the US had left a door open for such technology to be passed to India in the Hyde Act. It would be absurd for a group of nuclear nothings to be able to block this access.

On testing, India argued the existing moratorium was already imbedded in nuclear deal documents. It was impossible to go back and change these.

When it came to calls for periodic monitoring of India’s nuclear facilities, the response was, “Who will provide financial compensation for the cost of shutting down reactors?”

US officials say there is still a lot of work, dozens of amendments to the Indian exemption need to be ploughed through, even if many are contradictory and little more than posturing.

Most of the seven opposing countries have focused on getting strong language at the second NSG session, on September 4-5. These are expected to exhort India to take its nonproliferation responsibilities seriously and express doubts about the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Indian and US diplomats are now working to ensure the language in the new NSG guidelines will be sound and fury signifying nothing in terms of actual constraints. Indian officials concede a need to allow language that nuclear deal sceptics can take back home.