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Israel's move no threat to India's NSG bid

"Israel would very much like to have a similar nuclear deal.... But it knows fully well that the deal enables a one-time exception for India only," says a source.

india Updated: Oct 05, 2007 12:58 IST

Israel's demand for "criteria-based" collaboration with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is aimed primarily at Washington and will not affect the fate of the Indo-US nuclear deal in NSG, say officials and experts.

"Israel would very much like to have a similar nuclear deal. But it is realistic and knows fully well that the deal enables a one-time exception for India only," an official source who did not wish to be named told IANS.

"Moreover, Israel is still entangled in a domestic debate about the viability of nuclear energy. There is strong sensitivity on account of the ecological implications of nuclear energy," the source added.

"Israel's energy needs are met mostly by diesel and fossil fuel-fired plants. Israel would not like to have a large nuclear plant which could become a vulnerable target given hostile forces surrounding it," K. Subrahmanyam, who heads a task force appointed by the government to review India's nuclear policy, told IANS. <b1>

"It's largely a bargaining exercise with Washington by the American Jewish lobby. They are using the nuclear deal as a bargaining chip to retain influence in Washington," he said.

Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian envoy in Washington, added: "The American Jewish lobby has played a key role in pushing the India-US nuclear deal in Washington. They have also been crucial in transforming India-US relations."

According to a recent report in The Washington Post, Israel presented papers to the 45-member NSG asking for a "criteria-based approach" to opening nuclear commerce with states that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

This has raised apprehensions in policy-making circles in New Delhi and Washington that Israel's proposal could undermine the Bush administration's bid to get a wavier for India in NSG.

The Israeli proposal may also play into the hands of Pakistan, which has been actively opposing the India-US nuclear deal and wants a similar exemption - a plea that has been repeatedly turned down by Washington.

The proposal includes a list of 12 criteria to be used by NSG countries for "nuclear collaboration with non-NPT states". These include "stringent physical protection, control, and accountancy measures to all nuclear weapons... in its territory".

China, which has been ambivalent on the India nuclear deal and is keen to press for a criteria-based approach with a similar exemption for its ally Pakistan, may also seize the Israeli proposal to complicate the debate in NSG, some feel.

Among the countries that have not signed the NPT, only India and Israel would qualify for admission to the NSG under the Israeli proposal. Pakistan, with its questionable proliferation record, does not make the grade.

Israel has made it clear that it was not demanding an exemption or linking its efforts to any other issue like the India-US deal.

Israel has an exclusively nuclear weapons programme, albeit an undeclared one.

Its nuclear arsenal has been a constant source of inspired guesswork, with estimates ranging from 75 to 400 nuclear warheads.