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Meeting on India to follow NSG plenary

The special session will deal with letting in India back in nuclear mainstream, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Jan 20, 2007 20:44 IST

A special session of the Nuclear Suppliers Group will be held immediately after the next plenary session, scheduled in April. According to diplomats from several NSG countries including Japan, the special session will deal with admitting India back in the nuclear mainstream.

The US Congress having passed the Hyde Act on December 8, enabling the United States to begin nuclear commerce with India, parallel processes to allow India to return to the international nuclear mainstream have gathered momentum.

Discussions on the 123 bilateral agreement between India and the United States will resume later this month between teams of officials and technical personnel from both countries. Discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency will commence shortly on an additional protocol for India-specific safeguards with the agency. These safeguards will apply to the 14 reactors India has classified as civilian nuclear power reactors.

The prime minister's Special Envoy on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, Shyam Saran, has just returned from a visit to Japan and Korea, both NSG members. He was seeking their support to build a consensus within the NSG for an India-specific waiver that will permit the 45 member countries to trade in nuclear fuel and technology with India.

According to Japanese diplomats, this year will be "decisive," and it is a "matter of months" before "momentous changes occur" in the international nuclear arena in favour of India. French, British and Russian diplomats concurred.

A gradual consensus to support India is building even within Japan, Japanese diplomats said. Saran's visit to Tokyo last week, during which he met Foreign Minister Taro Aso, among others, has helped allay many worries.

The Japanese government, which seeks to enhance and expand its strategic partnership with India, does not doubt India's "impeccable non-proliferation record," the diplomats said. But they face two key hurdles, one domestic and one international.

As the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, emotions on the issue run high in Japan. The civil nuclear cooperation deal with India also threatens to turn the international non-proliferation regime upside down.

"Such an agreement, for one country, has never been done before," the diplomats said.

Email Nilova Roy Chaudhury: nilova@hindustantimes.com